When St. Vincent’s Medical Center Clay County officially opened its doors on Tuesday, a sense of exuberance filled the halls, as hospital staff and patients greeted one another warmly.
The excitement has been building for months, as the facility neared the end of its nearly two-year construction. A grand-opening event on Sept. 21 drew an estimated 8,000 attendees, and the consensus was generally the same, among visitors as well as staff: The hospital will need to grow.
“This is unbelievable,” Banzen said, marveling at the huge turnout. “I can already tell they are definitely going to have to expand.”
Situated on a 30-acre campus, the hospital was designed with the prospect of growth in mind. During a media tour held in mid-September, President D. Blaine Claypool pointed out that any part of the facility can easily be doubled. The huge exterior canopy over the emergency entrance, for example, can serve as the ceiling, to allow for the construction of additional treatment rooms.
Not only can the hospital grow outward, it can expand upward. Once a decision is made to add an extra floor, design features that are already in place mean additional construction will take just six months.
“That’s the great thing about starting with a blank slate,” Claypool said. “We were able to plan it so all the adjacencies work well together, and expansion won’t impact or change the public points of entry.”
Every detail of the building focuses on both patient and family needs, in order to make the total health care experience more positive and comfortable for all involved. A number of visual cues make it easier to navigate the building, such as angled walls in the main hallways. This feature provides an unobstructed view of nurses stations, so visitors know exactly where to go once they get off the elevator. Angled walls appear in each of the 64 private rooms as well, so patients can receive abundant natural light from a large picture window, and enjoy the view while lying in bed.
St. Vincent’s is one of the most respected health care providers in the region, and the process to bring the facility to Clay began about eight years ago. After a protracted battle among other area facilities over the Certificate of Need, the state determined that the proposed location would best serve the needs of area residents, and granted the legal document so that the project could proceed.
“Geographically and from a mission standpoint, each hospital here offers something unique to the community,” said Moody Chisholm, CEO of St. Vincent’s HealthCare system. “Our team makes it a top priority to preserve the inherent dignity of each and every patient. No matter what their personal faith, our approach is rooted in helping them to bring that faith into the healing process.”
Encompassing just less than 150,000 square feet, St. Vincent’s Clay County is also home to an integrated heart and vascular center, as well as an advanced imaging department with direct access to the emergency room. In addition to comprehensive breast imaging, the department offers 64-slice CT, full MRI, and bone densitometry.
Next door to imaging, the emergency department hosts 16 examination rooms, with separate areas for treating children and adults. Images of cheerful animal friends, fire trucks and other characters grace the walls of several exam rooms. The décor is aimed at making children feel more comfortable when brought in for treatment.
Sandra McDowell, who recently relocated to the area, is one of many Clay residents who are happy to see the center open its doors.
“I’ve already had to go to the emergency room twice, and I went to each of the other two hospitals, but both times it was a real hike,” said McDowell, the mother of two small but active boys. “I live just down the road, so this will be a lot easier in an emergency.”
A prominent art display in the ER showcases the work of elementary school students from within the Clay County school system, and the exhibit will rotate themes each quarter. Claypool explained that his team asked local art teachers to have their students create pieces with a fall theme, in conjunction with the hospital’s October opening. In January, the theme will be “My Family,” while spring and summer themes will feature the work of secondary school students.
The ER also offers a helipad and a mobile unit area, complete with a power source, to fully address a range of emergent needs. Inspecting one of the exam rooms, Clay County EMS Chief David Motes noted that having the facility in Middleburg would have a great impact on the level of care.
“There was only one ER on this side of the county for the longest time, and everything is really state-of-the-art,” Motes said. “It will be nice to bring people here and not out of the county.”
With an eye toward environmental impact, the hospital uses motion sensor lights throughout the facility, automatically shutting off when a room is not in use to help conserve energy. The use of reclaimed water in its cooling towers and irrigation systems reportedly saves up to 28 million gallons of water per year.
The second floor of St. Vincent’s features 24 medical/surgical rooms, along with eight ICU rooms, while the third floor is predominately for post-surgical care. All rooms are fully equipped to care for critical patients, including a 1,000-pound patient lift to allow for safe immobilization and movement of patients.
Each ICU room also features groundbreaking telemedicine connectivity, with access to remote medical practitioners at the touch of a button. Staffed by St. Louis-based Advanced ICU, the service provides backup for nurses, and helps avoid waking physicians in the middle of the night, which can cause crucial delays in care. Fully HIPAA-compliant, the service is not reimbursable, which means patients will not see an extra charge on their bill for utilizing the service.
The total cost of the hospital is projected to be $110 million, and St. Vincent’s projects an estimated economic impact of $50 million to the region. Claypool states the facility received more than 3,000 applications to fill approximately 300 positions. The 50,000-square-foot complex is fully leased, and will employ another 400 workers once completed.
Chisholm beamed as he surveyed the buzz of excitement among the first-day visitors, and echoed a sentiment expressed earlier by Claypool.
“One of the best things about this is that at least 80 percent of our staff members are Clay County residents,” he said. “They got to come home.”