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By Allison Mowatt

Driving past Wayne Memorial Hospital, it is evident massive construction is underway.  Back hoes, cement trucks, huge steel pilings and pipes abound.  This is Phase Two of the hospital’s Master Facilities Plan—a new patient tower, expected to house 50 private rooms.

Changes and additions have been underway for some time.  Inside the hospital, administrators, staff and patients are thrilled with recent upgrades such as a brand new expanded chemotherapy unit and the recent designation of a Level IV Trauma Center.

According to Lisa Champeau, Public Relations manager for Wayne Memorial Health System, the chemotherapy treatment center now features both private and semi-private infusion units, giving patients a choice, which is a positive improvement, as well as a new ceiling, floors, and walls. The wound care area is also being expanded and relocated to meet ongoing program needs and provide more convenience to patients.

WMH4All the new and enhanced services implemented at the hospital are designed to offer care closer to home.  When a person is sick or injured, minutes usually count—the faster to treatment, the higher the chance for a good outcome.  That’s one reason WMH applied for a Level IV trauma designation. “Since November 1 of last year, we’ve been authorized and able to treat more accident and injury victims quicker and more efficiently,” said Hospital CEO David Hoff.

Phase One is complete with a helipad, 80 additional parking spaces and a cardiac catheterization lab (The Heart & Vascular Center). Most importantly, administrators say, lives were saved at Wayne Memorial Hospital in 2017 that might not have had the same chance two years ago. According to Champeau, from February-October, the helipad was utilized about 50 times, and from June 2016—November 2017, the cath lab treated 500 patients, at least ten percent in the throes of a life-threatening heart attack.

WMH3Behind the construction for the 85,000 square foot patient tower, Wayne Memorial administrators say, are significant community concerns. “The plan focuses on patient satisfaction and privacy, parking, technology and infrastructure upgrades,” explained John Conte, Director of Facility Services and Real Estate, “but during the actual construction, parking was expected to pose some challenges.”

The hospital moved its patient parking to across the street from the front entrance “for safety purposes,” Champeau said, “away from the construction.”   To complement this, Champeau added, “We set up a security guard system to assist patients and visitors crossing the street. The guard helps make sure traffic stops, as it should, so people can cross safely.  We also have wheelchairs available for those who need them.“

There have been some slight setbacks with construction, but Champeau said workers and administrators incorporated a revised design for the foundation due to groundwater issues and it’s back on track.

Construction1-4-18 (25)The new patient tower is being built out from the current outpatient services entrance and above the parking garage which leads to the second floor, where the chemotherapy unit is located. Vehicles will be able to be driven underneath the tower, and a few more parking spaces will open up. Three floors are planned, with private patient rooms on the first two floors and shell space for future expansion on the third floor.

Private, single-bed, patient rooms are a trend in hospitals now primarily because they reduce the potential for infection, according to Champeau.  “They also enhance communications between patients and their clinical team and reduce noise.”  The project is expected to be completed in 2019.

Champeau noted that community feedback for its Major Facilities Plan has been largely positive. “We’re very grateful the community has supported us and our projects.”

The Plan is expected to cost approximately $35 million when it’s completed.  Much of the funding is coming from government-backed loans.  Hoff added, however, that “we are exploring many options for funding for enhancements to our project that will keep quality healthcare and Wayne Memorial viable for the future for our community.”

WMH2Champeau explained that the new floors in the patient tower will also incorporate new technology. The hospital is currently looking at a state-of-the-art call bell system with expansion capabilities—the Rauland Responder 5, for example— that will expedite response time and reduce noise.   Also, patient registration and changing areas will be improved for better patient privacy.  Existing three and four south nursing units will most likely be utilized for different services (as yet undecided).

WMH also recently implemented tele-neonatology for hi-risk infants born at WMH.  Through tele-neonatology, staff has 24/7 virtual contact with neonatology experts from Lehigh Valley Hospital.   The hospital’s New Beginnings Birthing Suites, which offers delivery via an obstetrician or a certified nurse midwife, saw close to 500 births in 2017.

Plans also include renovating the cafeteria to make it a more meditative relaxing atmosphere for patients and visitors. A wall mural depicting a local landscape and historical photos will grace the main wall and special lighting will be affixed to the ceiling to enhance the atmosphere further.  In addition, the Behavioral Health offices in the Stourbridge Mall are expanding and should be completed this summer.

Although WMH is non-profit, the hospital pays hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes annually on most if not all of its properties except the main campus.  “We are part of the community, too,” said Champeau. “We benefit from many of the same services such as police protection offered by the municipalities in which we are located.  We are more than happy to support the community we serve medically. ”

Since 2005, WMH has become a certified Primary Stroke Center, upgraded its state-of-the-art computerized tomography (CT) equipment and expanded the emergency room to accommodate 28,000 patient visits a year. Wayne Memorial Health System also spun off its primary care, behavioral health, dental and women’s health services when those services received an independent designation as a “federally qualified health center” (FQHC).  This is now Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers (WMCHC), which since its inception in 2007, has grown to encompass more than 13 offices and 200 employees.  Most recently, the area’s two largest primary care practices, Highland Physicians in Honesdale and Pinnacle Health Partners in Tafton became part of WMCHC.

The hospital’s service area has been growing with its own expansion, mostly of outpatient services such as lab (blood draws) into new localities.  It now serves approximately 100,000 people across Wayne and Pike counties and the Upper Delaware Region of New York and another 8,000 more in the Greater Carbondale area in Lackawanna County and Forest City in Susquehanna County.

And today, a new patient tower is on the horizon.  It should open shortly before Wayne Memorial Hospital celebrates its 100th birthday in 2020.

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