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Hardin Memorial Health will add more private rooms and expand the size of its main campus on North Dixie Avenue over the next four to five years.
The hospital’s Board of Trustees approved a master facilities plan Tuesday morning to increase the number of private suites available, renovate semi-private rooms into private quarters, upgrade its cancer care center by moving it offsite and renovate the emergency department.
“This is one of, if not the, most exciting days in the life of our hospital,” said President and CEO Dennis Johnson before the vote.
Trustee Doug Goodman was the only dissenting vote and Trustee Lisa Williams was absent.
Goodman said he voted against the plan because the hospital is unlikely to find enough revenue to offset expenses this year with a surge in bad debt.
Likewise, uncertainty looms with the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act.
“I just don’t know if I want to go $40 or $50 million in debt,” he said.
Goodman said he believes expenses could be at a maximum and revenues slimmer in coming years, which affected his decision.
“I just don’t want to wake up and have to lay off 300 or 400 people or do something else to generate revenue,” he said.
According to the plan, the hospital will construct an outpatient surgery and endoscopy center referred to as the “North Tower,” expanding vertically above two additional floors that will include all private patient rooms.
Mark Trier, of JRA Architects, said the hospital has 93 existing private rooms but the expansion will allow the hospital to offer 196 private beds.
Michelle Murphy, director of marketing and public relations at HMH, said the hospital’s actual 300-bed count will not change at the conclusion of the facility plan’s implementation because it is transforming a number of semi-private rooms into private rooms, which will even out the bed count.
Trier said the new private suites will be designed by modern standards and provide a spacious and comfortable setting for patients who desire more privacy. The current private rooms are roughly 210 square feet, but the North Tower rooms will be significantly larger at 335 square feet.
According to conceptual renderings, the rooms will feature recliners and sofas to accommodate a more relaxing setting for patients and families.
Johnson said the hospital is behind the curve in adding more private rooms, comparing HMH to Louisville hospitals, many of which have transitioned to all private rooms.
Johnson said it is crucial for the hospital to respond to patient’s desires and create a better mix of private rooms.
“We’re overdue on addressing these issues,” he said.
Cancer Care Center
The hospital assembled a 12-person focus group of patients and caregivers when tackling the notion of improving its cancer care center.
Murphy said the focus group advocated for closer and more convenient parking and expressed dissatisfaction with the center’s current setting in the basement of the building, which creates a depressing feeling.
The group also voiced a desire for more privacy in waiting and treatment areas of the center with comfortable chairs, power chairs and treatment beds.
Further, Murphy said patients want a quicker registration process, a conference room where they can meet for educational needs and options for private or group locations for chemotherapy treatments.
As for the center’s aesthetics, the group supported using warm, inviting colors and spring-like décor, referencing the need for fish tanks.
The focus group also indicated a preference to move the cancer care center away from the “Petri dish” of the hospital and its assortment of illnesses, Murphy said.
Officials have not identified a site for the cancer care center but plan to accommodate those plans by building a new facility using natural construction materials, such as wood and stone, with windows and natural lighting that will evoke a residential setting rather than a sanitized medical facility.
The early stages of design indicate close parking for cancer patients who cannot walk long distances and a number of entrances to allow for easy access.
A healing garden also has been proposed near the entrance to channel the spring-like atmosphere broached by the focus group.
Architects said they plan to seek further public input on the design of the center.
Few details were available Tuesday on renovations for the ER, but officials said it will be designed to accommodate current volume while being large enough to account for future growth. Treating just fewer than 60,000 patients annually, HMH’s ER levels place it in the top tier of utilized emergency rooms in the state, Johnson said.
Architects are collecting data, including activity volumes, and will implement these figures into its design alongside public input.
Johnson said the hospital plans to assemble more focus groups and turn to former patients and their families for what is needed because they are the best judges and critics on areas of needed improvement.
The hospital has created a page on its website, www.hmh.net, dedicated entirely to the master facilities plan that includes slides, concept drawings and information related to the projects. As work progresses, Murphy said the hospital will utilize the website and social media outlets to keep the public up to date and has encouraged anyone with feedback or suggestions to email the hospital at email@example.com.
“This is the community’s hospital,” she said.
Billed as the largest project in HMH history, hospital officials said private donations will be sought to help pay for construction and expansion through the HMH Foundation.
When asked about estimated costs, Johnson said it is too early to predict because the hospital has not proceeded beyond the conceptual phase. Once engineering and architectural services have been completed, he said, the hospital will have a greater grasp on how much the facilities plan will cost.
But he said the hospital is debt free and is able to take on new debt as it finances the work over the next four to five years.
“This is just exciting,” he said.
Hardin Judge-Executive Harry Berry, chairman of the HMH board of trustees, said officials took action more than 50 years ago to build a county hospital and that decision still is reverberating today. Decisions made this week to expand the hospital will likewise create a ripple effect for years, Berry said.
The master facilities plan falls in line with the hospital’s strategic plan, which calls for the hospital to construct and improve facilities to serve patients and compete locally; develop and promote services to support growth; improve patient satisfaction; develop and enhance medical staff; and create systems to improve quality and better manage care.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.