Hospital plans $16 million project

Friday, May 31, 2002

A $16 million expansion project at Southeast Missouri Hospital is intended to provide patients something they have long been asking for -- a little privacy.

The project, announced Thursday, calls for the construction of two new floors as well as the renovation of five existing units that will push the number of private rooms from 39 to 107.

"We knew from talking to patients and listening to physicians and employees that our patients wanted more privacy and really wanted private rooms," said hospital administrator Jim Wente. "Expectations today are far different than they were in the '50s and '60s. Patients want privacy and comfort."

Construction is scheduled to begin in July to build the floors that will sit atop the Harrison Annex. The new floors will be for medical and surgical patients and are expected to be ready by the summer of 2004, Wente said.

Wente said a study found that it would be impractical to add private rooms without expanding the existing facility. The number of patients staying at the hospital has been very high, he said, noting that the range of occupancy is 150-200 patients a day.

Dr. Gordon Haycraft, president of Southeast's medical staff, said little privacy is offered by rooms where only a curtain separates patients.

"There's no privacy in that situation," he said. "You wouldn't want me taking your medical history while someone on the other side of the curtain is listening to every word. I know I wouldn't."

Haycraft said the rooms will be larger and more comfortable for patients as well.

"I think patients just want their own rooms, with their own privacy with their own illness," Haycraft said. "There's even some rare occasions when patients may not get along. With these private rooms, you avoid all that."

Wente said that the building project has been designed to add private rooms while still accommodating the large number of patients being treated with minimal disruption.

The two new floors, Harrison 4 and Harrison 5, will house 46 new patient rooms, 34 of which will be private, Wente said. Remodeling of existing patient areas will progress after bed space becomes available in the new area, he said.

"We looked at this from a lot of different directions," Wente said. "We did a lot of homework and came to the conclusion we needed to add new space. The new space enables us to convert and remodel some of the existing rooms."

Patient care areas slated for a space expansion are surgical progressive care, medical progressive care, joint replacement center/ orthopedics surgical, neurology and oncology.

When the project is totally complete in summer 2005, Southeast will have 259 beds, down from its 271 beds. But because the hospital's average number of patients is usually below that, Wente said running out of bed space is not a concern. He said bed capacity should be sufficient for several years.

"We're doing this because we really believe this is what the patients in the 21st century are going to be looking for," Wente said. "The rooms are going to be very modern in decor and comfortable. Our intention is to make patient feel very much at home and minimize any stress and anxiety during their visit in the hospital."

The project will be financed through the sale of 30-year tax-exempt revenue bonds, Wente said. The general contractor for the project is Kiefner Brothers, Inc., of Cape Girardeau.

Wente also pointed out that this project is the 13th major addition in the hospital's 75-year-history. In recent years, some of the things Southeast has done include constructing a new main lobby, opening the Joint Replacement Center, constructing the MRImaging Center in the Regional Cancer Center, building a four-story clinical services addition and a redesign of the obstetrics and gynecology center.

Wente said that when you put all of the improvements and additions into the equation, the average age of the buildings is about 11 years.

"This is going to be the newest hospital in Southeast Missouri," Wente said.

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