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Memorial Hospital starts construction on new patient floors [The Sun Herald :: ]
[February 11, 2014]

Memorial Hospital starts construction on new patient floors [The Sun Herald :: ]

(Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 11--GULFPORT -- On the same day Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the board of directors at Memorial Hospital was set to vote on an expansion of the main patient tower.

"We kind of chuckled about it as we recovered from the storm that was probably the shortest-lived five-year capital plan that any organization had ever done," said president and CEO Gary Marchand.

Nearly 10 years later, hospital leaders are seeing that plan come to fruition as construction kicked off Monday.

Local officials and hospital employees gathered in the main lobby to hear details of the $50 million project, as well as tour models of new patient rooms.

The five-story, mostly brick building will get a makeover inside and out. A glass and tile facade will match the existing West Tower, two floors will be added, and modernized and larger patient rooms will eventually fill the third through seventh floors.

Fred Garguilo, vice president of administrative services who is overseeing the project, said the glass shell can withstand up to 135 mph winds and is built to international standards.

"That West Tower did fine during Katrina," said Marchand. "What we lost was some of the black tile, not the glass." He said the glass will also solve some of the leaking issues the building has had during storms with strong east winds.

Built in the '70s and '80s, the tower was originally designed to hold seven floors.

"That main tower is the most dense concentration of medical beds in the service area," Marchand said.

However, it was not designed for the constantly changing technological equipment that is now wheeled in and out of each room.

The new rooms will be 50 per cent larger to accommodate more equipment as well as more people.

"The rooms will be less congested, there will be more space for family and visitors, more comfortable lounging equipment to better accommodate overnight visits," he said.

Because each room will be larger, the net increase in the number of rooms will only be 24, which is the maximum that the hospital is licensed for through the state. That will meet the projected demand for hospital beds, he said, even with the aging baby boomers.

Marchand said the first wave of baby boomers hit last year, but that major effects won't be felt until most are eligible for Medicaid and Medicare.

He said younger people are being admitted less and less thanks to technological advances like laproscopy, and that is offsetting the increase in demand.

"You've got bed need increasing and care need increasing for the boomers, and then you're seeing a declining trend of bed use among the younger population," he said. "So it offsets us somewhere around flat." Marchand said one important feature of the rooms is the flexibility to switch from general and surgical care to intensive care. The need for a higher level of care per patient has been rising industry-wide, he said, and is projected to continue to rise with the aging boomers.

"If you look at the acuity of the average patient, it's up," he said. "Which means they're staying healthier in the community and when we get them, they've really got to be in a hospital bed." Another growing problem here and nationally is the size of the patients.

"Obesity and size of patient is becoming relevant nationally and obviously it's difficult to move some of these patients," Marchand said. The hospital has several mobile hoists but the new rooms will have stationary ones.

A common problem for nurses is back injuries, said Margaret Green, clinical protection manager who was a nurse for 29 years.

The new floor plans will also include more space for the clinical side of care, including bigger areas for labs and physicians and more nursing substations.

Green was also on the design team and said they consulted with nurses and former patients on everything from the height of the sinks to the number of outlets.

"The nurses were very much involved in creating this workspace that flows and works for them," she said.

Funding for the $50 million project is coming from cash reserves and the future operations budget of the hospital, which is jointly owned by the city and county.

Marchand said $19 million in bids have been awarded to area companies.

"All of the construction activity is new economic activity for the Coast," he said.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes told the crowd Monday that he was grateful for the investment in the local economy.

"In Gulfport we like to say we're open for business and geared for a good time and if you keep us healthy we're going to keep having that good time," Hewes said.

The expansion is set to be complete in the first quarter of 2017.

___ (c)2014 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) Visit The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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