By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Work is well underway on the new HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital near the intersection of Green Mount Road and Interstate 64 in O’Fallon. Construction is on schedule with the new facility expected to be finished and open in the fall of 2017.
“On the day we open we will literally close the old campus,” said Peggy Sebastian, the hospital’s president and CEO. “We will take possession of the substantively complete hospital in late summer next year and we will have a short two to three months to make a transition for installation of any equipment that will transition from one hospital to another. And then we will move all the patients on a single day.”
The need to build a new facility has largely been driven by changes in medical technology and the structural requirements needed to house that technology over the last 50 years. Upgrades in equipment, space, and design are needed to stay current with industry standards and the ability to transform the current space is limited.
“We opened St. Elizabeth’s in Belleville in 1964,” Sebastian said of the current main hospital building. “At that time it was state of the art and had a very robust platform for surgery and medical imaging. But those platforms have transitioned over these many decades so it is pretty exciting that we’re going to wake up next fall and be the most technologically advanced hospital on both sides of the river for that moment in time.”
One of the biggest industry changes has been in surgery, with the addition of minimally invasive procedures and the advanced imaging equipment used during those procedures. The ability to support the video and wireless needs for this type of equipment is limited in older buildings due to structural designs. As technology continues to advance, the limitations of the current facility’s design will become a bigger hindrance.
And changes have occurred in patient expectations as well.
“One of the important issues we are addressing is ease of access for patients,” Sebastian said. “Hospitals were much smaller many decades ago. As these older facilities grew, services were put wherever there was space. This resulted in services like medical imaging being spread out over many floors throughout the hospital. Patients expect more from us now. They want easy access and centrally located services. We spent a lot of time talking to patients and colleagues when designing the new hospital to determine where it made most sense to put each service and how one area should flow to the next for the comfort of patients and efficiency of care.”
Another change in patient expectations has been the movement to private rooms. The new hospital is being built with all private patient rooms with private bathrooms and showers. There will be documentation stations in each room that are private to each patient. The providers will stay in the room with the patient while they are conducting interviews and exams and writing treatment. Everything will be documented at the bedside so there’ll be a greater degree of relationship between the provider and patient.
The new, 350,000-square-foot hospital will provide 144 patient beds and will have an approximately 140,000-square-foot medical office building attached on 120 acres. When selecting the site, Sebastian said that proximity to I-64 was essential.
“We analyzed what other hospital systems were doing across the nation and roadway access was the number one metric they used for selecting sites. Access to I-64 was one of the top criteria as we narrowed down our location,” Sebastian said. “And the community of O’Fallon and O’Fallon city leadership has been very collaborative and supportive. We are very excited.”
Even with the new hospital and office building, the 120-acre site will still offer significant room for further development. Sebastian said that they have been approached by multiple health-care and medical providers about the site but nothing has been finalized.
Sebastian said that they have formed a task force to consider options for reutilization of the Belleville property with an eye toward what is best for the city, for the community and for the neighborhood. And HSHS St. Elizabeth’s will continue to have a health-care presence on the Belleville campus, providing physician services, lab care, imaging, rehabilitation and therapy.
“Eighty percent of health care is ambulatory or outpatient services,” Sebastian said. “It is rare to have an inpatient stay. We want to provide the health-care presence in Belleville that is most needed.”