Wesley Medical Center has completed the first phase of a $36 million renovation of women’s care units, and new patients will start to be admitted into the area next week, according to hospital officials.
“It’s an environment that our moms and babies have needed and desired for many years,” said Bill Voloch, chief operating officer.
Because Wesley delivers more than 6,000 babies each year, the project was divided into two phases to minimize disruption to services.
The project, which began in May 2013, covers about 65,000 square feet on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the hospital, where the postpartum and antepartum units are housed.
This first phase included 41 rooms – 33 renovated and eight new rooms.
Now, hospital staff is preparing for the second phase, slated to begin April 9. It consists of 50 rooms, including eight new rooms. The project is expected to be completed in December.
“At the beginning of phase two it’s like another pregnancy – we’ve got about nine months to finish before the end of the year,” said Cindy Harmon, a registered nurse who retired as interim nursing director for Women’s, Infants and Children’s Services last week.
Harmon has been with Wesley about 40 years.
Until the second phase of the project is complete, other areas of the hospital will be used for overflow if necessary, Voloch said.
The newly renovated rooms include LINC Technology, a system that allows patients access to electronic health records, Internet, radio, video games, Skype, movies and television, all on one touch-screen device.
Eventually, the hospital plans to expand the system to other areas and allow people to order their meals through it, Voloch said.
By giving patients direct access to their medical records, the hospital meets federal requirements that help it get additional dollars now and avoid penalties later under “meaningful use” – government standards that aim to expand electronic health records and keep costs down, Voloch said.
The hospital is investing more than $1 million in electronic health record systems, Wesley Chief Financial Officer Matt Leary said in a previous interview.
To meet the requirements for meaningful use, at least 5 percent of patients need to sign up to access their health records.
One of the biggest parts of the renovation was the addition of central heating and air that can be controlled in individual rooms, Voloch said. The rooms used to have window units.
“It was old-school heating and cooling, so there were plenty of hot summers where moms didn’t have the right temperature,” Voloch said. “So having each room separately controlled and allowing mom to set to what she wants is a huge upgrade.”
Wesley has also added a new nurse navigator to help patients coordinate care with providers and social services.
Last year, the city approved industrial revenue bonds of up to $36.5 million for Wesley, one of the city’s largest employers.
The hospital will receive an 87 percent tax abatement for at least five years with a possible five-year renewal after city review. The abated taxes could total more than $118,000. As part of the deal, Wesley said it would hire 45 new employees over three years with an average annual salary of $55,000.
General contractor for the project is JE Dunn Construction out of Nashville, Tenn.