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Hospital renovation under way

October 28, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Construction began Monday on a renovation project that will give Washington County Hospital a new, permanent Rapid Diagnostic Center for the Emergency Department.

Dr. Tom Gilbert, director of emergency services, said the Rapid Diagnostic Center is designed for patients who need prolonged observation.

"We admit a lot of high-risk patients who are spending less than 24 hours in the hospital," he said. The center will allow such patients to be placed in separate observation rooms without being formally admitted to the hospital or taking up emergency room beds.

For example, many patients who go to the hospital with chest pains need stress tests, EKGs and other tests, but could be discharged within 24 hours, Gilbert said. Asthmatic patients often are given steroids that take about six hours to kick in - these patients could be discharged in about 12 or 13 hours. Patients who need intravenous antibiotics or elderly patients awaiting nursing home placement would benefit from the center, he said.

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The center will allow such patients to receive quality care without "tying up beds," Gilbert said.

The hospital has been trying the concept for a little more than a year, he said, and "it seems to be working."

The problem is that right now, patients must stay in the Emergency Department during the day and are sent to the outpatient recovery area in the evening because there's no permanent home for the Rapid Diagnostic Center, he said.

Even though the hospital may relocate in the future, Gilbert said constructing the center was necessary now.

"We've got to look at quality care and the comfort of patients, and we can't wait four years," he said.

The first phase of the project, which involves remodeling the preadmission testing offices on the hospital's main floor, should be complete by early January, said Randy Sharshan, facilities executive. The second phase, the construction of the Rapid Diagnostic Center, should be finished by early February, he said.

In the meantime, Sharshan said, preadmission testing will be done near its present site. When the project is complete, he said, a more efficient work area will be available for preadmission testing.

"It's almost just a corridor now," he said.

The total cost for the renovation is about $250,000, Sharshan said. The total area involved is about 2,500 square feet; all the work is being done within the existing building, he said. Although a little waiting room space will be lost, he said the Rapid Diagnostic Center will provide five observation rooms surrounding a new nursing station.

One nurse and one technician will be dedicated to the center, Gilbert said.

Sharshan said the hospital is trying to do the construction work with as little disruption to patients as possible. Demolition, for example, will be done in the evenings.

Precautions also are being taken to keep debris from filtering out of the work site, he said.

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