BY JOE GARDYASZ
Senior Staff Writer
It’s midafternoon at Broadlawns Medical Center, and the hospital’s main lobby is humming with activity as visitors and patients pass by the information desk, some stopping for directions and others peering down the hallway at temporary information signs.
Down the freshly carpeted hallway, a construction worker uses red duct tape to seal plastic sheeting around a work area that is yet to be completed.
Though workers must still finish last-minute details, among them permanent directional signs, the bulk of the first phase of a three-phase, $45 million renovation and expansion project is finished. On Feb. 21, Broadlawns opened the newly constructed main entrance.
Located at 1801 Hickman Road, Polk County’s aging safety-net hospital has been undergoing a physical and fiscal makeover for the past three years, using a combination of revenue bonds and private contributions.
The most visible exterior change is a pair of cantilevered canopies that cover the main and emergency drive-up entrances to shelter patients from the elements as they’re being dropped off or picked up. As visitors enter through the glass sliding doors, they’ll likely feel as though they’re entering a bigger, brand-new hospital.
“The new lobbies are quite a change from what we used to have,” said Jody Jenner, Broadlawns’ president and CEO, as he provided the Business Record with a tour. “We’ve got about 7,000 square feet in our main lobbies; in the past we had maybe 500 square feet. So it’s considerably larger.”
Overall, about 25,000 square feet of newly constructed space has been added to the hospital’s east wing, to include a bigger emergency department with an adjoining walk-in urgent care clinic. The main lobby connects to a revamped patient financial services department, which features small private offices to facilitate confidential consultations.
On the far west side of the campus, construction is under way on a three-level, 20,000-square-foot
medical office building, which is expected to be completed in July.
Besides relieving congestion, the renovation project provides for better patient flow, which improves the quality of care, Jenner said.
“Our patient volumes have grown considerably over the years,” he said. “Just over the past two years, the numbers are up about 20 percent, and over the last three months, they’ve grown about 30 percent over what they were at this time last year. So the capacity is much greater than it used to be, and the patients are filling it up right now. But we’re getting all these patients in here, and you notice that it’s so much quieter than it used to be. It’s much more calming than it used to be.”
The emergency department, which last year handled nearly 32,000 visits, is now three times larger than before. The added space includes a separate acute mental health wing, with four rooms where patients can either be treated and released or kept until an inpatient mental health bed becomes available.
“Before, we were so congested that you might have a pediatric patient in one room and an adult patient with a mental health crisis right next door, so it’s nice having this self-contained unit,” Jenner said.
The treatment rooms are situated close together so that they can be shared by emergency department and clinic staff, Jenner noted. If either area is particularly busy, patients can be treated by the appropriate staff in whichever room is available.
One of the biggest advantages for patients is the availability of three new triage rooms that replace two smaller such rooms, said Dr. Vincent Mandracchia, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Broadlawns. After patients are registered, they will be seen by a critical-care nurse, who will determine whether they need to be taken immediately to the emergency department or be directed to the walk-in clinic or a specialty clinic on the campus.
“We have rewritten our protocols so that our wait times to be seen in the emergency room are decreased,” Mandracchia said. “Another thing we’re excited about is that we’ve added a third triage room which is staffed by a mid-level nurse practitioner. Rather than having to wait for a doctor, a patient might be able to receive an antibiotic from the nurse immediately, significantly reducing waiting times.”
The redesigned spaces will mean “patients are going to find it much easier to get where they are going, and the staff is going to be much more efficient with much less travel distance,” said Kevin Tubbs, director of business development for Graham Construction Co., the general contractor for the project.
More work ahead
One of the biggest logistical challenges was having to reroute patients through the emergency department entrance while the main entrance was closed for several months, said Jeremiah Federline, a project engineer with Graham. And before work could begin in each area, that space had to be sealed off and the flow of air controlled so that no dust or debris leaked into occupied hospital areas.
Though Broadlawns is not seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, Graham worked with The Weidt Group, an energy consulting firm, to build certain energy-efficient design features into the building, such as lots of windows to provide natural light, and daylight-sensing lights that turn off automatically when not needed.
Remaining work on the main entrance and lobbies should be completed within the next couple of weeks, Jenner said. Following completion of the medical office building this summer, additional renovation work will begin on patient rooms and the hospital’s medical-surgical floor.
Mandracchia credited Jenner’s strategic vision for the hospital with positively changing the footprint of Broadlawns.
For the staff, coming to work in bright, modernized spaces has “infused a sense of enthusiasm,” he said. “We had an open house for the staff recently, and it was tremendous to hear their comments.”
Broadlawns Medical Center still needs to raise approximately $12 million to fund the remainder of its $45 million renovation project, according to Jody Jenner, the hospital’s president and CEO. Of the $45 million total, funding of $30 million for the first phase is complete, and the remainder of that amount will be used to complete the medical office building by July 1, Jenner said.
Earlier this year, Broadlawns received an additional $1.4 million contribution from Iowa Health - Des Moines, which pledged to match $1 for every $2 in private contributions raised by Broadlawns, up to $1.4 million. Iowa Health had already provided $1 million to the project. Among other significant funding sources, the state I-JOBS program provided $1 million, Variety - The Children’s Charity raised approximately $865,000, and Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino donated
about $350,000 for the lobby.
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