Saint Francis breaks ground on major expansion project

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Shawn Roll-Huston, left, Nathan Bahr and Matt Underwood help lift the statue of St. Francis of Assisi from its pedestal in the fountain at Saint Francis Medical Center Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 after a groundbreaking ceremony. The statue stands five feet, three inches to the top of the crucifix. The front entrance will be closed Dec. 4 as the $127 million expansion and renovation project begins. (Fred Lynch)

A new era was ushered in Wednesday at Saint Francis Medical Center with the groundbreaking for its $127 million "Building on Excellence" project.

The project, which has a target completion date of June 2016, calls for a new, updated main entrance, five-story patient tower, a Women and Children's Pavilion and an Orthopedic and Neurosciences Center. It will add more than 217,000 square feet to the medical center, bringing it to 1.6 million square feet.

"This is a significant milestone for health care in the region," said Dennis Marchi, chairman of the board of directors at Saint Francis. "We are becoming more developed and innovative while other hospitals are being battered by the economy and health care reform."

The milestone is not without changes. One that patients and visitors should be aware of begins Tuesday with the closure of hospital entrances No. 1 and No. 9 because of construction.

Those wanting to go to the Health and Wellness Center will need to use entrance No. 8 on South Mount Auburn Road instead of entrance No. 9 on Saint Francis Drive. Those who want to access the main lobby of the hospital at entrance No. 1 on Saint Francis Drive will need to use entrance No. 2 at the Healing Arts Center lobby.

"We're trying to get the word out on that," said Steve Bjelich, president and CEO of Saint Francis. "We're even putting fliers under the windshield wipers of cars in the hospital parking lot."

This minor inconvenience aside, Bjelich said patients and visitors can expect an enhanced medical experience in the new facility upon completion.

"Patients will be cared for in rooms that will be larger than before," he said, "and they will all be private. Right now we have 65 percent of the rooms in the hospital designated as private, and after completion we will be at 100 percent. While that has become more of a standard at hospitals across the nation, for this region it's a positive new development."

Bjelich added that patients will benefit from the privacy afforded by the new rooms.

"When a loved one is in the hospital and they are sharing a room with another patient, it's difficult sometimes to attain privacy between a patient and their visitors. Also, if the other patient in the room suffers from an infection, there's the risk of it being passed to the other patient or to a visitor. With private rooms, those factors are not an issue anymore."

Marilyn Curtis, vice president of professional services at Saint Francis Medical Center, agreed having private rooms will improve the health care experience for patients.

"We have large, loving families in Southeast Missouri," Curtis said. "They like to visit their relatives when they are in the hospital. In a private room, if the doctor needs to talk with them about a serious matter, there won't be another family there for the other patient who can hear everything. There will be no need to step out into the hall."

Curtis added the larger rooms also will allow for a family member to spend the night at the hospital.

"They can do that now," she said, "but it's tight. The new rooms will have plenty of space for them to rest in along with a comfortable couch."

Visitors also will benefit from the direct and consistent approach found in the design of the new facility.

"There won't be any zigzagging back-and-forth between annexes," Curtis said. "Also, the elevators will be marked for visitor or patient usage. This way, visitors won't have to be in an elevator with a patient they don't know who is in a gown or is connected to a machine."

According to Curtis, the improvements mean one thing: providing quality health care for St. Francis' patients.

Expansion plans were designed with input from the hospital medical staff. Thirty-five physicians were involved in the process, which included more than 1,000 hours spent by staff discussing ideas and options.


Pertinent address:

211 Saint Francis Drive, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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