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Meritus set to open new 11-bed unit this spring

February 07, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

High patient volumes have prompted Meritus Medical Center officials to move ahead with the hospital’s first expansion, a new 11-bed unit set to open in the spring.

The news comes less than two months after the opening of the new medical center, which Meritus Health President and CEO James P. Hamill said is often filled nearly to capacity.

The number of beds the hospital can offer is regulated by the Maryland Health Care Commission, which recently approved the expansion from 267 beds to 278, Hamill said.

Washington County Hospital had about 292 beds.

“We talked to them right at the beginning of the year, right after we came out of the holiday period, and said, ‘We are in need of those additional beds ... because patient volumes are running very high,’” Hamill said. “They took a couple of weeks to make sure it was not just a blip and got back to us a week or so ago.”

The 11 rooms, all private, will be added to a tower on a wing of the fifth floor that had been planned for future growth, according to a Meritus Health press release.

Construction will start immediately and should take about eight weeks, Hamill said.

The hospital also is recruiting for additional health care team members to address the high volume of patients, the release said.

The health system’s employment web page — www.meritushealth.com/employment — listed 54 openings at Meritus Medical Center as of Monday afternoon, most of which were for registered nurses.

A recent nurse-recruiting fair attracted more than 70 interested applicants, Hamill said.

Since the new hospital opened Dec. 11, the patient census has frequently topped predicted numbers, especially in the emergency department, where admissions have surpassed 190 per day on a regular basis, the press release said.

Emergency physicians say the region has experienced an especially difficult winter for severe illnesses, the release said.

Hamill said the added beds would be medical/surgical beds. Having more of those beds available will free up space in the emergency department, he said.

“The hang-up in the emergency room has not been necessarily the volumes,” he said. “It’s the people that were stacking up in the emergency department waiting for an available bed.”

Sometimes the only beds the hospital has available are specialty beds, such as antepartum and postpartum beds, that are not appropriate for a general medical/surgical patient, he said.

Whether the 11 additional rooms will solve that problem “remains to be seen,” Hamill said.

“We will have our bed formulas and our bed calculations redone in March, and it’s conceivable that that could allow us to finish off some additional rooms,” he said.

The tower floor where the 11 new patient rooms will be built has the capacity for 30 patient rooms, Hamill said. Additional rooms on that floor could be finished off in a matter of weeks if approved by the Maryland Health Care Commission, Hamill said.

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