Metro-East News

‘What patients need’: Metro-east hospitals move toward private patient rooms

Effort to create private patient rooms at Anderson Hospital in Maryville

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Lauren Mullikin remembers being in a semi-private room at Anderson Hospital in Maryville and receiving news no one wants to hear, especially an 18-year-old with her whole life ahead of her. A doctor told her she had cancer, specifically Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

“The news was so much for us to absorb,” she said. “I was so glad to be in a room by myself, surrounded by my family.”

More accurately, Mullikin, who lives in Edwardsville, wasn’t in a private room. She was in a semi-private room, but she didn’t have a roommate at the time.

“I couldn’t imagine being in a room with someone else whenever you hear that kind of news,” she said, “because I was able to have a private room my whole family was able to come and be with me that day.”

Now, more than two years later, Mullikin, 20, has finished all her cancer treatment and is working with Anderson Hospital to promote its $7 million capital campaign to create more private patient rooms.

“I think having the privacy in general is important for anybody who is going through any kind of illness,” she said. “I think when you go through something like this it gives you a platform so you can help make things better for those who have to go through illnesses after you.”

By the end of this year, the Maryville hospital plans to create 21 new private patient rooms in a space that formerly housed physician offices. The current building known as Physician Office Building I houses cardiac cath labs on the third floor and will house new private patient rooms on the entire second floor.

$7 Million capital campaign for private room project at Anderson Hospital

21 New private patient rooms at Anderson

49 Existing medical/surgical rooms will be renovated at Anderson

Lynn Huelsmann, executive director of the Anderson Hospital Foundation, said amenities featured in the new private rooms will include Wi-Fi access, convertible couches that flip into beds and additional storage options for the patient and their guests. Rooms were created to include space for both visitors and staff.

Construction of the private rooms has already begun, according to Huelsmann. The general contractor is Korte Construction.

In addition to the new private patient unit, renovations on current surgical and medical units are underway as well to create private patient rooms within existing units.

By the end of 2016, Anderson will offer private patient rooms throughout the hospital with the exception of the Acute Rehab Unit, which will continue to offer 20 semi-private rooms. Anderson also has 12 private beds in the Intensive Care Unit and 24 private obstetrics beds.

Administrative Director of Facilities Management Bill Eck said Anderson is licensed for 154 beds and that bed count will not change as a result of the project.

“The scope of our $7.2 million project includes the development of a brand new exclusively private 21-bed unit and the total renovation of all 49 existing med/surg rooms,” he said.

However, 28 of the 49 renovated rooms will be able to be used as “semi-private” as needed during high census times, according to Eck.

Anderson received approval from the state health board for the project in October 2015. The next step, Eck said, is to submit all necessary paperwork to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

I think having the privacy in general is important for anybody who is going through any kind of illness.

Lauren Mullikin, cancer survivor and former patient at Anderson Hospital

Benefits of private rooms

More and more patients are coming in and requesting private patient rooms, and hospitals throughout the metro-east are taking notice.

“Most patients are looking for a private room,” Huelsmann said.

Memorial Hospital recently opened a new location in Shiloh — Memorial Hospital East — which has 94 private patient rooms. Memorial Hospital Belleville’s 216 patient rooms all are private.

Hospital Sisters Health System is currently constructing a new replacement hospital for St. Elizabeth’s in Belleville. The hospital off North Green Mount Road in O’Fallon will have 144 private rooms. It’s expected to be completed in 2017.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville also has all private rooms.

“Over the last five years, our patients have told us that they prefer a private, family centered environment during their hospital stay. As a result, we have invested in renovations to allow double occupancy rooms to be used as private rooms when patient volume permits,” said hospital spokeswoman Kelly Barbeau. “Currently, we can apply this flexibility to all of our inpatient care and emergency departments.”

Research indicates that private patient rooms make patients happier and healthier, according to hospital officials.

Private suites:

▪  Enhance privacy and confidentiality

▪  Increase patient satisfaction

▪  Improve patient recovery times

▪  Improve accommodations and comfort for family members

▪  Reduce risk of infections

▪  Reduce noise, minimize stress and improve sleep

▪  Reduce risk of medication errors

“It’s what patients are really expecting and what patients deserve in order to get the best medical care,” Huelsmann said. “It’s what patients need.”

She said sometimes doctors need to have “sensitive conversations” and having those is a private setting is “much more conducive.”

“Research has shown that private patient rooms actually shorten hospital stays,” Huelsmann said.

Laura Bernaix, dean of the School of Nursing at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, said hospitals actually save money with private rooms as opposed to having semi-private rooms.

Private rooms mean hospitals have to transfer patients to different rooms less often, she said.

In semi-private rooms, patients have to be matched based on their gender, according to Bernaix.

It’s what patients are really expecting and what patient’s deserve in order to get the best medical care.

Lynn Huelsmann, executive director of the Anderson Hospital Foundation

“Many times hospitals run 10 percent unoccupied because there’s not a match — male-to-male and female-to-female,” she said. “You are not really running to your full occupancy rate.”

Private rooms help decrease the chance of transmitting infections, Bernaix said. Hospital-occurred infections can be costly for hospitals, she said.

In addition, less furniture in a patient’s room decreases the risk of patient falls. “Falls in a hospital can be costly,” she said.

Fundraising efforts

Anderson Hospital Foundation Board member Tom Maxwell and his wife, Vickie, donated $100,000 to Anderson Foundation’s Private Room Campaign. Tom Maxwell is president of Midwest Medical Group, LLC, in Edwardsville, and Vickie Maxwell owns Fitness and Fun in Bethalto.

“Vickie and I felt strongly about supporting the Private Room Campaign at Anderson due to our personal experience with my parents at other hospitals,” Maxwell said.

He explained how during his mother’s final stay in the hospital, she was heavily medicated and was suffering from the impact of emphysema. His family was permitted to stay with her all day and all night as they carefully monitored her condition.

“I remember feeling very sad at her prognosis, but also feeling blessed we were able to share her final moments in private as a family,” Maxwell said.

In November 2015, Maxwell’s father passed away due to liver failure. “The nurses did an outstanding job with him, but there were times when several had to help at once and the room became full of people trying to assist,” Maxwell said. “Hospice was called in and the meetings occurred in the hospital room. Having only our family in the room at the time was a blessing as we discussed how hospice would be implemented.”

Huelsmann said the hospital board and the foundation board started working on the Private Rooms Project in January and construction began soon afterward. Of the $7 million capital campaign, she said only $1 million will come from private fundraising efforts.

So far, about $300,000 has been raised, and Huelsmann said the foundation hopes to raise the remainder by the end of this year.

As for Mullikin, she plans to attend Indiana University in the fall in pursuit of a nursing degree. She hopes to become an oncology nurse.

“The nurses were the ones who were there with me all the time,” she said. “The nurses were the ones who spent hours at night in my room, writing on the whiteboard, explaining things to my mom and me, and holding my hand through procedures. They were as much emotional support as they were important to helping me get better. I want to do that for other families.”

Jamie Forsythe: 618-239-2562, @BND_JForsythe

Anderson Hospital Private Rooms Project

  • What: Anderson Hospital in Maryville plans to create 21 new private patient rooms in a space that formerly housed physician offices and renovate 49 other existing rooms.
  • Cost: $7 million capital campaign with $1 million coming from private fundraising
  • How to help: Contact Lynn Huelsmann at 618-391-6427 or go online to