Planned upgrades will prepare Elkhart General for years to come

The planned $74 million upgrade of Elkhart General Hospital will allow for more modern surgical suites and accommodate a shuffling of departments and units that hospital leaders say will allow for better, more efficient care.
Posted on Feb. 15, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — The upshot of the looming multi-million dollar expansion at Elkhart General Hospital will be more modern care, more efficient care.

There will be new surgical suites, more private rooms for patients, and the hospital will be better positioned to keep pace as medical technology advances. The sparkling new facilities, moreover, will be a lure in attracting new doctors to Elkhart, hospital officials say.

“I think it’s the biggest project we will have had at Elkhart General Hospital,” Greg Losasso, the EGH president, said Thursday, Feb. 14.

The centerpiece of the EGH plans is construction of two floors above the three-story West Wing and the addition of a skywalk connecting that new section with the hospital’s emergency room and intensive care unit. That adds 150,000 square feet of space and comes with a price tag of $74 million.

But that’s not all. The surgical suites will be moved from the existing hospital structure to the West Wing addition and other medical units will be shuffled and moved as space is opened up, resulting, officials say, in improved care. Additional work within the existing hospital structure will cost an estimated $8.5 million, resulting in an overall outlay of about $82.5 million.

Hospital leaders preliminarily revealed the expansion plans last September and formally unveiled the timeline, updated cost and other details on Monday. Though preliminary efforts have started, construction of the West Wing addition will start sometime this fall. It’s to be complete by 2015.

Losasso and Pam Goddard, director of surgical and cardiovascular services, provided additional information on Thursday and following is a closer look at the plans and what they mean.

Ÿ Surgical suites: The new surgery rooms are, perhaps, the most significant part of the plans. At least eight new rooms, with space for two more, will take shape on the fourth-floor West Wing addition, replacing the operating rooms near the EGH emergency room. They’ll be more spacious, 700 square feet each, and uniform in size, making them more accommodating to all sorts of surgical procedures.

The existing surgery rooms are dissimilar in shape and size, making some suitable for certain procedures, but not for others, according to Goddard.

The new rooms will have higher ceilings, permitting use of suspended equipment, much more common than when the existing surgery rooms, with lower ceilings, were built in 1972. “It was not anticipated that we’d have the kind of technology you do today,” said Losasso.

Also on the new fourth floor will be three endoscopy suites, where procedures like colonoscopies are handled, and a hybrid surgical suite, which houses special imaging equipment for less invasive procedures.

“I think we’re going to be positioned for a long time to come,” said Losasso.

Ÿ Private rooms: The new fifth floor of the West Wing will house 44 private recovery rooms while remodeling in the existing hospital structure will create yet more private rooms.

Individual, as opposed to shared, rooms allow for more privacy and improved infection control and are what the public wants. “It is a huge patient satisfier,” said Losasso.

The new fifth floor addition will also house the Total Joint Unit, which handles knee and hip replacements, one of EGH’s most lauded units.

Ÿ Skywalk: The planned skywalk will connect to the second and fourth floors of the revamped West Wing, and possibly the fifth floor. The second floor houses EGH’s maternity and pediatric units while heating and air conditioning units are located in the third floor.

“You just don’t want to have to move people around the basement here,” said Losasso. The basement also offers another route from the emergency room to the West Wing.

Ÿ Moving things around: The new space will allow various units dedicated to care of heart patients to be housed together, including the catheterization lab and the telemetry unit, making care delivery more efficient.

The rehabilitation unit, where those recovering from severe strokes, head injuries and other ailments go, will move into upgraded digs, within the existing hospital structure. The pediatric unit moved to the maternity section on the second floor of the West Wing as part of the ongoing shifts and that area, future home of the rehabilitation unit, will now receive a facelift.

Ÿ Existing operating rooms: Hospital officials have yet to determine what to do with the existing operating rooms. The space could be taken over for use by the nearby emergency room our used for outpatient functions.

Officials considering upgrading there instead of building on to the West Wing, but decided such a project would be expensive and disruptive, said Goddard. Limited space to build up, moreover, would limit use of hanging equipment.

Ÿ Disruptions: Building upward on the West Wing, the disruption should be minimal to the adjacent residential neighborhood. While the parking lot at the main West Wing entrance may be used to store construction equipment, ample parking in the garage near the main hospital entrance should prevent overflow of autos to side streets.

The unoccupied third floor of the West Wing should help muffle the sound of construction as the fourth and fifth floors take shape, “but I can’t say there won’t be noise,” said Losasso.

Losasso said hospital leaders have already held a meeting with neighborhood residents to keep them up to speed on the plans and more meetings will occur as work proceeds.

Funds for the $74 million will likely come from bonds. EGH is using $8.5 million in existing funds to cover the renovations to the existing hospital structure.


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