Lakeshore Hospitals Are Booming

July 2, 2004
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Health-care construction is picking up steam along the Lakeshore, with Hackley, Holland Community and Zeeland Community hospitals all unveiling significant projects within the past month.

Here’s a look at the construction scorecard closer to Lake Michigan.

Hackley Hospital

From the physical layout of the space to the small, electronic device nurses and physicians wear around their necks, the new $11 million emergency department at Hackley Hospital is designed with a simple vision: To drive efficiency and enable staff to work faster, which in turn leads to better emergency medicine.

Four years after changing the way virtually everything is done in the ER, Hackley Hospital now has a new facility that will further speed the process for people seeking emergency medical care. The hospital opens the new emergency department during the early morning hours of July 12, creating significantly greater capacity to handle burgeoning patient volumes.

“It all goes back to efficiency and doing things quickly and effectively and getting to people quicker so you can find out what’s wrong with them,” said Gerald Buchanan, M.D., chief of emergency medicine at Hackley Hospital.

“The whole thing is designed for efficiency and to do things quicker,” Buchanan said.

Hackley Hospital’s ER volume grew 42 percent between 1999 and 2003, from 40,802 visits to 57,882 visits, in an aging facility designed to handle only 18,000 cases annually. ER volumes are projected to grow to 64,000 visits in 2004.

The hospital has been able to keep up with the volume growth of recent years through an extensive re-engineering of emergency care in 2000 that changed more than 160 separate processes, enabling staff to work more effectively. They include faster triage to better separate emergency and non-emergency cases and steer them to the appropriate care and implementing bedside registration using wireless laptop computers.

Since then, Hackley Hospital has reduced ER waiting times — the period from when a person walks into the department to when he or she is seen by a physician — from an average of 56 minutes in the late 1990s to a little more than 10 minutes today, while maintaining quality and improving patient satisfaction rates. Hackley Hospital recently received a Governor’s Award of Excellence for Improving Care in an emergency department setting.

Projecting patient volumes to continue a sharp upward trend and unable to accommodate that growth in the existing 25-year-old ER, Hackley Hospital decided to develop a new emergency department that would tie in to all of the process changes implemented four years ago.

“We built the building around the process, instead of the process around the building,” said Lori Muellerleile, director of critical care and emergency services at Hackley Hospital. “Now, moving into the new building, we just have to refine it a little.”

The new ER features 32 treatment rooms — up from 22 in the existing facility — and two trauma rooms. Hackley Hospital is seeking accreditation to become a Level 2 trauma center.

To assess patients faster, the new ER has its own CT scanner, avoiding the need to transport patients around the hospital when they need a CT scan, as well as digital x-ray equipment that allows for quicker readings of images.

Built to handle 76,000 patient visits annually, the new ER is laid out using a radial design, with three wings extending from a circular nursing station. The layout cuts down on the physical distance between staff and patients.

And then there’s Vocera.

The new wireless communications system is designed to improve communications among staff.

The hands-free system uses an electronic device that nurses, physicians and other staff wear around their necks. To reach someone else, a user only needs to speak into the device and identify whom they need to contact. The system puts them in touch with the person or workstation they want.

By eliminating the need for a nurse to stop what they’re doing to use a telephone or intercom to contact someone, Vocera is expected to save up to 30 minutes of staff time per individual nursing shift.

To help finance the construction, Hackley Hospital netted $2.7 million in contributions from local businesses, organizations and other benefactors.

Zeeland Community

A $36.1 million facility now under construction east of town should enable Zeeland Community Hospital to attract a wider patient base.

Conveniently located along Chicago Drive, and about a mile from an I-196 interchange, the new hospital will give Zeeland Community the capacity and accessibility to draw more patients from eastern Ottawa County markets, particularly for outpatient medical care.

“We’re thinking broader in terms of what is our community,” Zeeland Community Hospital Board of Directors Chairman David Reid said following a ceremonial groundbreaking in mid-June. “Our approach is to have such quality capacity, it will draw.”

The hospital is replacing an aging, nearly 50-year-old facility on the city’s south side that’s inefficient and has no room left for expansion to accommodate burgeoning patient volumes and evolving medical techniques and technology. Featuring all private rooms, the new facility in Zeeland Township will generate efficiency and productivity gains for the hospital, helping to contain future operating costs.

Occupancy in the new 114,000-square-foot hospital in targeted for mid-2006.

With the four-floor, 57-bed facility will come an attached 28,000-square-foot professional office building to house administrative functions, plus an adjoining medical office building, developed and operated by Hughes Management of Grand Rapids under a 50-year land lease agreement, for physician practices and related health services such as physical therapy and behavioral health.

Through the new facility, Zeeland Community will have “an almost unlimited possibility for expansion to accommodate new services in the future that we can’t even imagine in our minds” today, Reid said.

Once the new facility opens, Zeeland Community will look to expand medical services that the hospital presently does not provide, such as MRI and nuclear medicine, and will consider the development of additional primary care services on the 40-acre site, CEO Henry Veenstra said.

Veenstra and Zeeland Community directors envision the eventual development of a large medical complex that offers a myriad of medical services.

“This is just the first project on this campus,” Veenstra said.

And by growing medical services at a convenient location that’s easily accessible from around the region, Zeeland Community can better serve an existing patient base within its core market around the rapidly growing Zeeland area, as well as appeal more to people living in growing communities to the east.

The hospital owns a group medical practice in Hudsonville — Georgetown Physicians — and draws patients from throughout southern Ottawa County and northern Allegan County.

The new location provides Zeeland Community the potential to expand its patient base and market share by stepping up efforts to draw from the Hudsonville, Jenison and Georgetown markets along the I-196 and Chicago Drive corridors, where people may be more apt to drive to Zeeland for a medical test or procedure than to one of the Grand Rapids hospitals.

“It will allow us to continue caring for this community and allows us to open doors,” Veenstra said.

Holland Community

A $45 million expansion and renovation should help Holland Community Hospital cast a wider net for specialty medical care in the West Michigan health-care market.

The hospital in recent years has been expanding medical services such as cardiology and neurosurgery. The expansion and renovation project includes a new critical care wing and upgrades to the Boven Birthing Unit, which will enable the hospital to care for some babies who are born prematurely and currently are transferred to DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

While Holland Community Hospital does not want to replicate some of the specialty care already available in West Michigan, it will expand those services where there is a local demand and seek a more regional patient base, President and CEO Dale Sowders said.

The expansion and renovation will provide the space the hospital needs to pursue and further that strategy, Sowders said.

“We see that as a extension of some things that have already been going on,” he said prior to a ceremonial groundbreaking in June.

A combination of new construction and renovations to existing facilities will provide Holland Community more space for the emergency department and inpatient units to handle growing patient volumes, as well as accommodate evolving medical technology, relocate several medical services, and improve the accessibility and the flow of patients, staff and visitors through the hospital campus.

The first phase, scheduled for completion by December 2005, will expand the emergency department from 17,000 square feet to 29,300 square feet and from 14 treatment rooms to 34.

The next phase, due to start once the emergency room expansion is done, will require the demolition of a wing on the east side of the hospital that was built in 1927. In its place will be a new 30-bed critical-care unit that’s targeted for occupancy in August 2006.

“What we are about to do is much more than simply adding brick and mortar. We are extending and building on the vision of those who preceded us,” Sowders saidduring the groundbreaking ceremony. “We will not rest on the laurels of our past or current successes.”           

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