Chuck Barnes sat down at the grand piano in the atrium of the new Trios Southridge Hospital and began to play.
Then Unchained Melody.
Music filled the room, as workers filed in and out, finishing up last-minute tasks at the 168,000-square-foot facility that will make its public debut with an open house later this week.
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Barnes, 66, has spent more time inside the new hospital than just about anyone. As executive director of support services for Trios Health, he has been involved in the Southridge project since “the first gleam in somebody’s eye,” he joked.
He’s had a hand in everything from obtaining state approval, to design and construction, outfitting the facility with state-of-the-art equipment and setting the stage to shift much of Trios’ hospital operations from the aging flagship on South Auburn Street to the new site.
Barnes has brought years of hospital construction experience to the task — and a peaceful presence that has helped on the long path to the new hospital, said Glen Marshall, Trios CEO. “He’s a pretty calm person most of the time, which we need in our business. He certainly can bring a calming influence in some difficult situations.”
He can bring music too.
Barnes, an accomplished musician — and a dancer, outdoorsman and Episcopal deacon — has been known to slip behind the piano at Trios Southridge and play a tune or two. He’s not the best pianist, he said in protest the other day.
But he needed no sheet music.
And the notes were lovely and sure.
Workers took notice, smiling and — in a few cases — even dancing as they strode past.
Barnes jokingly told one man he was practicing for his next job, after he eventually retires.
“What lounge are you going to play at?” the man asked.
Barnes smiled pointed to the piano bench he was sitting on, in the atrium of the hospital he helped build. “Here,” he said.
‘First real exposure’
Trios Southridge Hospital is set to take its first patients July 15, but the public can attend an open house from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.
The new hospital is the most complex construction project Barnes has been involved with in his lengthy career. But it’s far from the first.
At Trios Health, which until last year was known as Kennewick General Hospital, he’s helped with efforts from construction of a new short-stay unit at the Trios Care Center at Spaulding to the renovation and expansion of the family birthing center and nursery at the Auburn hospital.
Before he joined Trios in 2001, Barnes spent 16 years with Good Shepherd Health Care System in Hermiston, where his first task was helping equip and coordinate the move to a new hospital.
He got into the hospital business while attending the University of Oregon in Eugene.
The Idaho native worked for a newspaper and a radio station in high school, and envisioned going into journalism or perhaps education.
But he got a part-time job as an orderly at Sacred Heart Medical Center to help pay the bills while he worked his way through school.
He started at $2.85 an hour — a jump from his newspaper wages. “I thought, ‘My God, I’m rich!’ ” he recalled.
After graduation, Barnes stayed with Sacred Heart, becoming director of surgical services.
The hospital took on a major project — building an ancillary tower for surgery, radiology and outpatient services — and Barnes was involved.
“That was my first real exposure to hospital construction,” he said.
Barnes eventually moved on to what’s now Asante health system in Medford, Ore.
He was involved in several projects there, from remodeling an intermediate care unit to construction of a $16 million ambulatory care pavilion. Barnes left after 12 years, making his way to Good Shepherd in Hermiston.
Barnes and his wife, Robin, whom he met while in college, built their dream home in the small Eastern Oregon city, close to the hospital.
They still live there.
Barnes has commuted to Kennewick since he joined Trios Health, making the approximately 70-mile round-trip countless times — in the winter cold, the summer heat, as the new Southridge hospital has moved to a reality.
The $110 million Trios Southridge will be the health system’s main hospital, with full in-patient services from an emergency department to surgery and intensive care. It has 74 private patient rooms, plus another 27 emergency and trauma services rooms, six operating rooms, a multifaith chapel, several waiting areas, a gift shop and a restaurant, among other features.
Barnes said it’s been “an exciting process” to put together the new hospital. It hasn’t been without challenges — from the long path to settling on a financing method to small hiccups in recent months as the hospital has neared completion.
An issue with the maker of imaging equipment ordered for the new hospital caused a few pieces to be delayed, although interim equipment has been secured.
Officials also pushed back the opening of the hospital, primarily because of a delay getting state approval to use the elevators, which threw off the move-in and training schedule. Trios had hoped to welcome patients in early June.
Marshall said Barnes has been invaluable in shepherding the Southridge project through the years. He described Barnes as “the sort of glue, consistency” of the Trios executive team.
Barnes said the project has been a labor of love for many who have been involved.
“I think the way the hospital structure has been designed, and the campus master plan — this is just the first step of a long legacy (for Trios) I can turn over to somebody else when I retire and feel really good about,” Barnes said.
Not that he’s planning to retire soon.
Barnes also is the point person for the 160,000-square-foot medical office building and ambulatory care center that’s under construction at the Southridge site next to the hospital.
It’s set to finish next year.
“I think I’ll at least stick around to see (that) opened. As long as my boss is happy with what I’m doing, and we’re moving ahead, I’d like to see this project to completion,” he said.
At some point, he’ll step away. He and Robin have an RV, and they’d like to travel and spend time with their two sons and grandkids.
Barnes noted that his father retired from his last job at age 82. The Trios Southridge point man seems to have that same itch to keep moving — and he has plenty of interests to keep him occupied when he does retire, from his church ministry to the outdoors to his music. Along with piano, Barnes also plays accordion and organ.
But, for now, there’s a hospital to open and a medical office building to complete.
“Right now,” he said, “I’m having a good time.”
Public open house planned
Want to tour the new Trios Southridge Hospital ahead of its July opening? A public open house is planned from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Participants are advised to wear comfortable shoes and expect wait times, with no early entry. Tours last about 45 minutes.
The hospital is at 3810 Plaza Way in Kennewick.