HGH ICU Gets Makeover

By David Taube, Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.

Aug. 6–Tiles replaced carpets, computers replaced charts and a staff elevator replaced a single-door entrance.

These changes for the Intensive Care Unit on the third floor of the Hazleton General Hospital were unveiled Tuesday among various renovations made possible through a $132,000 grant from the state Department of Health.

Most often, HGH has received funding through federal grants, Greater Hazleton Health Alliance President and CEO James Edwards said.

“People are beginning to realize this area can service their needs,” said state Sen. Ray Musto, D-14, who secured the grant.

Edwards said sometimes it feels like southern Luzerne County is left out of the equation, so securing state funding is significant.

He presented Musto with a plaque at Tuesday’s ceremony.

“Senator Musto stepped up to help us with those funds immediately,” said Edwards, who identified these results as “otherwise unattainable.”

Musto explained that grants must justify requested need. Given a large senior citizen population, officials said, Hazleton’s demographics contributed to this award.

“People were willing to leave the area, but now things are changing,” Musto said.

The two weeks of renovations were finished in late July.

As part of the renovation, changes included a redesigned nursing station, automatic doors at the entrances, infection control tiles in place of carpets, a keycard access system, a staff elevator, privacy dividers at stations for doctors, a renovated waiting room through HGH Auxiliary funds, a fire sprinkler safety system and energy-efficient lighting, according to a press release.

Previously, the unit’s appearance may have been a cause for concern for family members of a critically ill patient, said Kim Colvell, manager of the hospital’s critical care and Stepdown units. These changes, though, make the unit more welcoming, she said.

“The changes are a call into the 21st century,” Colvell said.

Among the changes, 12 patient rooms were given a facelift. Computers now prompt nurses with instructions, and medical records are available electronically by multiple doctors and nurses inside and outside the hospital.

“It’s like having a mobile chart,” said Michael Golden, vice president of nursing.

A typical problem in medical facilities has been documents were hand-carried, and an X-ray would be on another floor.

“In this system, everyone can look at the same chart at the same time,” said Michele Cassic, director of education. Golden and Cassic also suggested that the system will boost hospital efficiency. An average patient stay of 4.8 days, they said, may also be decreased.

All patients admitted from Tuesday on will now be part of the hospital’s internal electronic database, which is accessible by family doctors and out-of-state hospitals. The system is part of a federal requirement for medical records to be paperless by 2010.

For Hazleton, these changes now bring the facility “up to par,” said Lynda Naperkowski, nurse manager of the hospital’s Gunderson Rehabilitation Center.

Many hospital officials described the area as more open. Patients and team members are now able to see all nurses at the unit’s central station due to a lowered counter that wraps around the nursing desks and stands just above waist-level.

The renovations mark the third phase of development for Hazleton General’s emergency care facilities. Previous stages included the expansion of a new emergency care area and the opening of a new operating room in 2006, both part of multi-million dollar changes.

“This grant is for the people,” Edwards said. “Even though it’s channeled through Hazleton General, it affects the 100,000-plus people in our coverage areas.”

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