Josh Ripplinger of Wold explains the designs for a new hospital in Wrangell. (June Leffler/ KSTK)


Architects unveiled designs for a new hospital in Wrangell. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium plans to build a new $30 million hospital adjoining to its current clinic in town.

Janet Buness is a retired nurse in Wrangell. She was there when Wrangell Medical Center was brand spanking new. But now…

“I think it’s long past due to have a new hospital the old hospital is about 50 years,” she says.

Buness was at this week’s meeting, where architects unveiled design plans for the new hospital. She likes the designs, and she loves the plan to have an enclosed courtyard for long-term care patients.

“The garden part in the middle is really, really nice, because it’s going to be really nice to have a place for people to go outside and be safe,” she says.


The new SEARHC campus would span 44,500 square feet, including the current clinic. The hospital will be three times the size of the clinic.

Preliminary designs for SEARHC’s new hospital in Wrangell. (June Leffler/ KSTK)


The architects took the guiding principle that the island town wants to maintain all its current services, and then some. So 14 private rooms are dedicated to long-term care, a huge part of Wrangell’s current services. There will be four emergency rooms and four acute care rooms.  The current clinic will be used very much how it is now.

Buness has one concern.

“I would just have little concern about having four acute care patient rooms, because if you have one isolation patient in one room and another patient that needs a lot of care you have even less room,” she says.

But she says she’s impressed with the designs and hopes this deal does move forward.

Since the city and SEARHC first announced a possible acquisition, the architectural firm Wold has been there. Josh Ripplinger is with the Minnesota-based branch.

He says the designs include a flexibility of spaces, because what happens in the hospital changes every day. The acute care rooms can fit two beds if absolutely needed. Two of the emergency rooms can house procedures, which only happen a few times a year. And the EMT gathering room can switch to a body viewing room.

“Neither one of those are used all that often throughout the year, but when they are used they provide a much more appropriate environment than what we are seeing today,” Ripplinger says.

14 rooms are dedicated to long-term care (green). Four rooms for acute care (light blue). Four rooms for ED (red). The existing clinic will function much as it does now (dark purple). ( June Leffler/ KSTK)


He also highlighted the hallways.

“The current hospital has a circuitous path,” he says.

The designs call for one main corridor connecting to all care units in the hospital, to provide a straightforward access for patients and nurses.

“All of those are accessible off of one main corridor with a smiling face with a smiling face at each end with the registration desk and the nurse station,” he says.

And what will the whole thing look like? Ripplinger says the hospital will match the current clinic’s look with its timber framing and woodsy palette that goes with Wrangell’s natural environment.

Final designs should be finished by the end of the year, with a new hospital ready for patients by the beginning of 2021.

The SEARHC and city deal is about to wrap up, pending a citywide vote and a SEARHC board of directors vote.