ST. MARYS – The upcoming expansion and renovation at Elk Regional Health Center (ERHC) is designed to modernize many services and enhance the level of patient care and satisfaction for residents of Elk and Cameron counties and surrounding communities.
The $10.3 million project will construct a third floor housing 42 new, private medical/surgical/pediatrics rooms with private baths in each; two new, centrally located nurses' stations to oversee each half of the medical/surgical/pediatrics unit; a new 10-bed Generations Unit; and renovate part of the existing first floor near the surgery suite and recreate it as a new, more efficient Maternity unit that includes four obstetrics/gynecology patient rooms, four rooms for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum, and a dedicated operating room for emergency Caesarean sections. Bids have already been opened and construction on the project is slated to begin early this summer.
Sam MacDonald, Director of Support Services and Business Development for ERHC, said a combination of patient satisfaction surveys, new federal guidelines for room size and other structural requirements and feedback from employees at the facility led to the overall design. According to MacDonald, as healthcare needs have changed over the years and healthcare has become more consumer-driven, the current patient rooms on the medical/surgical floor, housed in buildings from the 1920s and 1940s, are not as efficient and comfortable as they could be.
"I think that the staff up there right now are making heroic efforts to make these units effective. (The) med/surg unit - it's shaped like a T - and it's a very, very long walk from here to there, traveling from the nurses' station," MacDonald said.
He explained that when first built, the patient rooms served their purpose well, but today's healthcare practices and equipment have different requirements.
"Efficiency is a problem. The rooms are too small to comfortably handle a lot of the medical equipment that's used - I mean, we have a lot more stuff - computers and IV drips and stuff that they didn't necessarily have in 1922 and 1941," MacDonald said.
Mary Helen Coroso, RN, clinical manager of the hospital's Generations Unit and The Family Unit, concurred with MacDonald's diagnosis.
"In the patient rooms, as far as efficiency goes, if you have a computer there, you can do the assessment, do your documentation right there, as opposed to maybe writing it down or doing it later at the nurses' station. It gives you more time to spend with the patient actually, too," Coroso said.
MacDonald said the final version of the new design was a result of feedback from many sources.
"There was a lot of involvement from the staff on the medical floor as to what would be more efficient to them and what did they foresee to help the patients better," said Amy Reed, RN, ERHC's clinical manager of medical/surgical/pediatrics. "The people on the floor, the people who actually work in these rooms, are really kind of driving how they're designed and what they're going to look like."
She said patient feedback was also a crucial component in finalizing blueprints for the new construction and renovation.
The new 42-bed unit will be licensed for up to 48 beds if necessary for when more people than normal are admitted, which is known as "high census."
In addition to the med/surg floor, a new gerontology/psychiatric unit will also be constructed. Known as the "Generations Unit," this unit addresses the needs of people 55 and older who have been given a psychiatric diagnosis of some kind, including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar and Alzheimer's with dementia and behavior changes.
The Maternity Unit is also undergoing a redesign, with the renovations taking place on the hospital's existing second floor. Another piece of the renovation involves the demolition of the 1950s office building that was used as sleeping quarters for the nuns who served the hospital at that time. MacDonald emphasized that nothing will be done to the distinctive stone building that served as the main hospital at one point.
MacDonald said he was confident that the project would meet the needs of the community for many years to come.
"This is actually the culmination of the previous 20-year plan. Things change. Who knows? But right now, this is our hospital, I would say, for at least a generation of people who are going to live here," MacDonald said.
"I think that we're pretty comfortable that we picked right."