Hospital hopesPlans for a new hospital in Jamestown continue with the architect’s visit expected later this month and a host of details to work out before the anticipated groundbreaking next spring.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
Plans for a new hospital in Jamestown continue with the architect’s visit expected later this month and a host of details to work out before the anticipated groundbreaking next spring.
Driving the need for a new facility is inpatient care. The original hospital building, which opened in 1935, and its subsequent wings were not designed to meet the needs of staff or patients today.
“It’s very inefficient,” said Marty Richman, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “For example, one of our nurses put on a pedometer and by the end of the day, she’d walked five miles. That’s time she could have spent caring for the patient.”
A $7 million addition was announced in 1999 and opened in 2001 to meet the rising need for outpatient services. However, little could be done about small rooms, long hallways and too little space for modern equipment. What is most obvious to anyone visiting a patient in the hospital is just how much equipment and technology are shoved into spaces designed when radio was the main home entertainment center and televisions were a novelty.
“There’s so much equipment in these small rooms now, it’s dangerous to walk into the room,” Richman said. “So, although the outpatient service was much improved, the inpatient care was not resolved in any way.”
“There’s so much more technology now,” said Bill Kennedy, the hospital’s marketing director. “Just put a wheelchair and a friend in the room and it’s hard to get around.”
New hospitals are being designed with larger private rooms, which allow for all the equipment needed for patient care. And it’s not just about better accommodations for patients, equipment and visitors.
“The main reason is infection control,” Richman said.
The radiology and lab areas in the present facility are also tightly constrained by an ever-increasing amount of equipment and technological improvements. Kennedy said they need more space.
To help finance construction of the new $30-million to $40-million facility and its subsequent operations, hospital officials have applied for “critical access” designation. The federal designation was created in 1997 to improve a hospital’s financial performance for inpatient services and help prevent closure. The hospital must be at least 35 miles away from the nearest critical access facility and must provide 25 inpatient rooms. Critical access means the facility is a critical need in the area it serves. Most often that applies to rural hospitals more than city facilities.
As it stands now, Medicare pays the hospital a fixed amount for medical procedures, which is always below the actual cost, Richman said.
“Critical access will actually pay us our cost plus 1 percent,” he said.
That translates to about $700,000 a year, which, Kennedy said, “will help defray the cost of construction.”
The location of a new hospital depended on the 35-mile restriction, Richman said. It’s planned for a 50-acre spot off the junction of Interstate 94 and the Woodbury Interchange. The area is west of town and is presently unimproved. Along with a new hospital, Richman hopes the three clinics in town will join together in a construction of a medical office building adjacent to the hospital.
“We want to make it possible for a patient to start in the clinic and go directly to the hospital if necessary, without a time lapse,” Kennedy said.
But right now, there is virtually no infrastructure — roads, utilities, water or sewer — in that area for a facility as complex as a hospital or medical office building. For City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf, that means preplanning is necessary.
“Everything they’re doing is conceptual at this point,” Schwartzkopf said. “So our responses are still based on very raw concepts as to how this will work out.”
He said the major consideration for the city is the size and importance of a hospital, compounded by the infrastructure needed for such a facility. It’s far more involved than construction of any other type of facility.
“It’s important to get the best infrastructure to it,” Schwartzkopf said. “There’s a much higher degree of importance for these types of facilities to be viable in all circumstances. We lose the ability to handle a crisis if we lose the facility.”
For example, the water and electrical supply must be consistent and reliable in a crisis or emergency situation. And I-94 is a huge barrier that must be crossed to get what’s needed to the hospital.
“There are a lot of issues that have to be dealt with,” he said. “They need to be fleshed out so everyone is on the same page. And to accommodate all these things, we need to start now with the engineering and architectural consultants.”
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org