Hospital plans $10.3 million upgrade project
SCHUYLER COUNTY--A long-awaited upgrade to the Schuyler County Hospital complex is inching closer to groundbreaking. Last year, the hospital requested and received a $10.3 million grant from the state's Health Care Facility Transformation Program. The grant will help to improve patient care by making it easier for doctors to visit patients and for nurses to work with patients by streamlining the progression from emergency services to inpatient care.
Speaking of the current inpatient medical/surgical department, hospital CEO James Watson says, "It's outdated. And we wanted to relocate our primary care physicians' offices to the same level as the main hospital so physicians and patients can go back and forth instead of driving down to another parking lot." While most rooms are currently semi-private, in the future wing, "We're going to have 12 private rooms and two semi-private. The rooms will be larger with bathrooms and showers in each patient room." Currently, patients who need to shower have to travel down a hallway to the shower room, carrying all their necessities.
Telemetry capabilities in each room will delete the need for the current intensive care area, because monitoring will be available for every patient. And as many of the nurses requested, the layout of each patient room will be identical, making it easy to know where all supplies can be found, while larger rooms will make patient care more efficient. As anyone who's visited a patient knows, a nurse coming into the room to take vital signs or answer a call can mean changing places with visitors and moving chairs back to make room.
"We're not adding more patient beds," Watson says. "We currently have 16 patient beds and there isn't a demand for more. Our average patient census is usually 11 to 12."
This is partly because even though the local population is aging, there's increased pressure from Medicare and Medicaid for more procedures to be outpatient based and for hospital stays to be shorter. In the past five years, Watson notes, the number of outpatient surgeries has tripled without significantly raising the number of overnight patients. However, because surgeons need to follow their patients when a hospital stay is necessary, more complicated surgeries like joint replacements are generally performed at Cayuga Medical Center or other facilities closer to the surgeon's main practice.
The hospital footprint will expand, but the change is happening in a considered way so there will be minimal disruption to daily operations. The new patient rooms will first be constructed in the back of the hospital, near the emergency room and radiology suites. "Even the MRI trailer should be able to stay in the same place," Watson says. Once this stage is complete and patients are populating the new rooms, the area currently known as the "Med-Surg floor" will be gutted and converted to primary-care offices.
Watson said the new location will be better for both doctors and patients--no one will need to get into a car to get tests or visit patients--all medical needs may be met under one roof. As for the current primary care offices, which recently received a facelift, these are likely to become administrative offices for non-clinical staff.
Watson said nothing is yet set in stone. The design process is still in the works, and Watson says once the plans are decided on by hospital staff and submitted for approval to the state health department, the engineers will go to work creating construction plans. The approval process can be a lengthy one, with the state sometimes requiring amendments to the plan to meet code and other requirements. Groundbreaking is expected to begin in December 2018.
Kitty Shallenberger, president of the hospital auxiliary, has also been a hospital patient, and describes Schuyler Hospital as a local treasure. "I very much like that the doctors' offices will be located at the hospital," she says. "I think that's important and it will be much more convenient for people to go to one location. The auxiliary is busy trying to come up with events to raise money." Although the grants will provide the main funding, she explains, "We will be absolutely active in raising money for the extra items that might not necessarily be in the budget." Last year, the auxiliary donated seven armoire units to Seneca View, because "The auxiliary is all about making the hospital better."
She has high praise for the hospital's service to the community. "We don't know what life would be like without it," she says.