Newer, smarter hospital for Harney County

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

BURNS— The new Harney District Hospital is 60% larger but will spend 70% less on its heating costs than at its previous facility. The hospital opened last month and is using wood pellets to fuel heat pumps, a shift that will save 40,000 gallons of heating oil annually. Wood pellets burn very hot, have virtually no emissions and can be made from waste products such as sawdust or shavings. The hospital currently purchases pellets from two Oregon companies, Blue Mountain Lumber and Bear Mountain Forest Products, and is exploring the possibility of obtaining pellets made of recycled industrial waste. At 55,000 square feet, the hospital is still relatively small. But for the 8,000 people of Harney County, accustomed to an antiquated hospital dating back to 1950, the modern health-care facility is so significant officials set up a “construction cam” so everyone could chart the progress of the project on the Web. In addition to its novel heating system, the hospital’s other modern touches include late-model MRI and CT-scan machines and electronic patient records that can be accessed by faraway specialists.

— Brooke Matschek

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