'You could be at the Marriott': New Highland hospital set to open

News-DemocratJuly 31, 2013 

— The region's newest hospital is designed not to look like one.

When the new three-story St. Joseph's Hospital in Highland opens to patients in three weeks, they will first see a lobby lined with windows at the main entrance. Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Peggy Sebastian said this open space lets in sunlight and is designed to give patients a sense of calm.

Inside is a stone fireplace, a waterfall cascading over glass and a large, round, 120-year-old stained glass window --a gift from the Immaculate Conception Church in neighboring Pierron.

Another stained glass window on another wall to the left of the lobby is of the hospital's namesake, St. Joseph. It was manufactured in Milwaukee 65 years ago and was donated by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.

A cafe with Wi-Fi access is right off the entry area. The adjacent chapel features stained glass from the old hospital chapel and soon will have the pews and pipe organ from the former.

Sebastian said she hopes patients, their families and friends see an inviting reception area and not a hospital waiting room.

"When you stand in this lobby, you feel like you could be at the Marriott," Sebastian said. "The idea is generally that's a happy place, that's a positive place you're going to. Most people don't choose to come to a hospital. You don't wake up in the morning and say I think I'll have a cup of coffee at St. Joseph's. So we're trying to make that environment more appealing."

The new hospital, which sits on 63 acres at the corner of Troxler Avenue and Illinois 160, will open to the public on Aug. 22 and take the place of the former hospital located one mile away.

St. Joseph's has been part of the community for 135 years. The current hospital building at 1515 Main St. opened in 1950, but that building is outdated and the campus is landlocked. Sebastian said the building eventually will be demolished.

Korte and Luitjohan Contractors Inc. in Highland and St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. formed a joint venture in constructing the new 125,000-square-foot hospital and adjoining medical office. They are wrapping up construction after 14 months.

The new $63 million hospital will house 25 beds, each in private rooms. The hallways are covered with about 280 blown-up, poster-sized photographs of wildlife, plants, flowers and landscapes submitted by local professional and amateur photographers.

The outpatient rooms are not a typical box shape. The walls are cantilevered and the beds are directed toward a window, where patients can view outside landscape. Sebastian said researchers from Baylor University have found that patients who can view nature and have exposure to sunlight are helped in the healing process.

"We believe that although it increased the overall footprint of the overall unit, it was well worth it," she said. "We thought that this was the right thing to offer to patients."

The new hospital has a state-of-the-art trauma center, advanced medical imaging and diagnostic equipment, digital communication between the new hospital and physicians and patients and electronic communication services will provide patients with wellness updates. Each in-patient room has a couch that converts into a bed so friends and family can stay overnight with loved ones. Visiting hours will be 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These rooms also have a magnetic dry-erase board for posting cards, pictures or other information. Flat-screen TVs in these rooms are equipped with video cameras that will allow patients to use an Internet program to communicate with family and friends online. One in-patient room located next to the critical care unit has a family suite next door with kitchenette and furniture with a couch that also converts into a bed.

Other rooms where patients are more mobile have handrails along the walls and the adjoining bathrooms. Sebastian said the hospitals want to keep patients from falling.

"The number one reason for patient falls is when they try to access the bathroom, and it's usually at night," she said. "They don't want to call the nurse and they want to do it on their own."

The emergency department, surgery services and medical imaging area are located next to each other to enhance efficiency and care. The medical imaging department features a new MRI machine that's faster, quieter and more precise. The new 64-slice CT Scanner can produce full-body scan results in seconds, and a new PET-CT scanner enhances the hospital's existing cancer treatment program, Sebastian said. The MRI and CT scanning areas share an adjoining control room, which was also a means to improve the hospital's efficiency.

"We designed this location so that we could have them located next to each other," she said. "For consultations, I also think that it is good for the technicians to be able to interact with each other."

The wound care center has two new hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers.

The surgery center has digital cameras suspended from the ceiling with monitors also suspended from ceiling that allows surgeons to get a magnified view of their operation.

A decontamination suite is located right by the door leading into the emergency department.

The hospital has a separate imaging center for women and children, which includes ultrasound and bone density imaging providing minimally invasive biopsies that are less painful and provide better diagnoses.

"With our commitment to women and children, we felt that this was the right thing to do for us," Sebastian said.

A walk-in, no-appointment health care clinic called Priority Care will be relocated within new hospital. Sebastian said the hospital wanted to provide these patients with access to all of the new hospital's technology and the staff under one roof.

The new hospital also has a helipad on campus. The old hospital's helipad is off campus and located at Highland Middle School.

"For us, it's a big deal," Sebastian said. "For us, in a small, rural community, it's a nice investment."

The new hospital also features some technology from the past. A system of pneumatic tubes connects six stations throughout the building that will help transport blood specimens, medications, instruments and documents.

"This used to be very vogue in the '70s and '80s and people kind of stopped using them," Sebastian said. "We believe they have very good utility, so we brought them back. The advantage is for a small community hospital where there are less employees, it makes it more efficient. If I draw blood, I can send that immediately to the lab."

St. Joseph's employs 240. Sebastian said the hospital anticipates hiring 30 more employees within the next six months following the new hospital's opening.

The Highland hospital is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System in Springfield. HSHS operates 13 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin, including St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville and St. Joseph's Hospital in Breese.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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