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Thursday, July 9, 2009 11:49 am

Home sweet hospital

St. John’s outpatient surgery center to offer tranquil atmosphere

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St. John’s Hospital’s new outpatient surgery center is designed to look and feel like home.

People who don’t like hospitals typically cite their cold, institutional feel as the reason.

Officials at St. John’s Hospital clearly had this fact in mind when designing its new $8 million outpatient surgery department to be located on the hospital’s second floor. Construction of the 16,020-square-foot center, in the space formerly occupied by the hospital’s ophthalmology department, is expected to completed by October 2010.

Based on preliminary artist sketches featuring contemporary design schemes, modern furniture, and large, flat screen plasma televisions, the hospital registration and waiting areas could easily be mistaken for the lobby of a ritzy hotel. Bob Ritz, St. John’s president and chief-executive-officer, says the hospital wants patients and their families to experience “something that’s very different” during their hospital visit.

“We designed this to offer a homelike, calm bright atmosphere,” Ritz says.

Combined with the panoramic glass surrounding the hospital’s Pavilion, cascading water, foliage imagery, natural stone, and wood flooring, and a warm color palette will be incorporated to create an ambiance unique to most surgery centers, he adds.

Changes in health care payment methods and advances in medical technology have caused the number of outpatient surgeries — procedures taking less than two hours to complete and that don’t require an overnight stay — in the U.S. to skyrocket over the past 30 years. Such procedures now account for nearly two thirds of all surgery visits at St. John’s and nationwide, emphasizing the need for the additional surgical department.

Mike Houston, chairman of the St. John’s Hospital board, says the outpatient department renovation represents the first phase in a major expansion of St. John’s campus to take place over the next five years. The ultimate goal, Houston says, is to transform how healthcare is done in this region of the country.

“While new bricks and mortar are great, at the end of the day they are simply a means to support the hospital’s healing mission,” Houston says.

The department will add five operating rooms, 20 pre- and post-surgery patient stations, two consulting rooms and separate waiting rooms for adults and children.

Currently 5,000 surgeries are performed at St. John’s each year. Dr. Donald Ross, the hospital’s director of surgical services, says the outpatient center will improve surgical patients’ overall experience from check-in to discharge.

“Not many people want to have an operation, but when you do, you want things to run smoothly,” Ross says.

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