Spokane Journal of Business

Regional lab plans to relocate

PAML will leave Valley, take over former nursing home near Sacred Heart

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Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories Inc. (PAML), the Spokane-based regional medical laboratory that performs large numbers of tests on bodily fluids, plans to move its Spokane operations next year from two locations in the Spokane Valley to a former nursing home near Sacred Heart Medical Center.


Sacred Heart spokeswoman Marilyn Thordarson says PAML will take over the former Southcrest Subacute & Specialty Care Center property, at 110 W. Cliff Drive, after the four-story, 68,000-square-foot building has been renovated, and will move a total of about 400 employees there.


Sacred Heart bought the South-crest building and some surrounding land earlier this year for $2 million, and it identified PAML then as a possible occupant for the building.


The extensive remodeling project is expected to cost another about $9 million and will include razing seven apartment structures just west of the former Southcrest building to make room for a 220-stall parking lot.


Sacred Heart will lease the Southcrest building to Bourget Health Services Inc., a for-profit subsidiary of Sacred Heart that does business as PAML, Thordarson says. The former Southcrest property is located about a block south of the Sacred Heart campus and adjoins other property the hospital owns.


Through Bourget, PAML currently leases laboratory space in a 40,000-square-foot building at 11604 E. Indiana and some administrative office space at a separate location on Argonne Road, Thordarson says. Both functions and all of the employees from the two locations will be consolidated at the Southcrest location, she says.


This is definitely going to be an improvement, particularly in efficiency and lab-work turnaround time, because PAML will be able to share technical resources with Sacred Hearts lab and will be closer to Spokane International Airport, since a major part of their volume is flown in, she adds.


PAML does routine fluid analysis that can be performed quickly and in high volume, so fast turnaround is more critical than for Sacred Hearts internal lab, which performs more specialized and complex types of tests, Thordarson says.


At its new location, PAML will stagger work shifts to minimize traffic impacts, she says. Bouten Construction Co., of Spokane, already has begun remodeling the former Southcrest building, and PAML is looking to move in around next August, Thordarson says.


Spokane traffic engineer Don Ramsey says the city is reviewing a preliminary traffic study for the project, but he describes the review as procedural in nature and says hes not aware of any regulatory hurdles that the project faces.


Southcrest closed late last year, forcing the relocation of 80 residents. Extend-icare Homes Inc., which had owned Southcrest, blamed the closure on federal reimbursement program changes that it said had made the 30-year-old nursing home unprofitable.


PAML, which performs tests on all types of bodily fluids, including blood, serum, spinal fluid and urine, claims to be the largest privately held lab in the Pacific Northwest.


Thomas Tiffany, its CEO and general manager, says the company employs or manages about 900 employees altogether, an has annual sales of around $50 million. PAML had said about a year ago that it serves more than 85 hospitals in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, California, and Alaska.


PAMLs director of laboratory operations said the facility on Indiana was handling more than 1,500 test orders a day. The types of tests handled at the Spokane lab can include drug screenings, prenatal screenings, diabetic screenings, thyroid function tests, and cholesterol screenings.


Pathology Associates Inc., a separate laboratory that conducts tissue tests and has been sharing space with PAML in the building on Indiana, plans to take over the space that PAML vacates there, Thordarson says.


Pathology Associates and PAML once were affiliated, but Pathology Associates sold PAML to a Nashville-based company in 1984. Sacred Heart bought PAML, through Bourget, two years later when PAML was on the verge of being sold to another out-of-town company.

Kim Crompton
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