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March 11, 2014

Fox Hospital to unveil new 14-bed unit

By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Nurses at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital said Monday they are excited about a new 14-bed observation unit opening Wednesday that will increase efficiency and privacy and improve the overall patient experience.

The creation of the observation unit is the final phase of Fox’s “Gold Standard of Patient Care” modernization project, which began in February 2013. The renovations were specifically intended to convert many of the hospital’s double-bed rooms to single-occupancy and were funded, in part, by an $8.7 million Healthcare Efficiency and Affordability Law grant from the state, according to Robbin Scobie, Fox’s vice president of nursing. Another $1.5 million was donated by community members and hospital employees, she said.

Beth Ann Gutierrez, case manager at Fox, said more than 53 private rooms have been created as a result of the project. The designated observation area, located on the first floor of the hospital, is comprised of 14 observation rooms, she said, three of which are three-person suites and five of which are private rooms. 

The observation area is an outpatient unit where health care providers can treat, monitor and perform testing to evaluate patients’ conditions and determine whether they need to be admitted as in-patients or if they can go home, Gutierrez said. It provides a middle ground of sorts, she said, between being in the Emergency Department and being an in-patient.

The private, single-occupancy rooms in the observation unit will prevent infection from spreading among patients; allow better communication between patients and care givers by dramatically reducing noise and disturbance; and foster pleasant, more private interactions with family and loved ones, according to Fox officials. The unit features a family waiting room.

Scobie said the new unit is the only observation area of its kind in the region. Most hospitals have observation patients mixed in with regular patients, she said.

“This is better, though,” Scobie said, “because it gets patients in and out in a more timely manner.”

In most cases, Gutierrez said, patients in the observation area will only be there for between eight and 24 hours. Most area hospitals do not have the option of placing patients in such a unit because they don’t have one, she said, and the closest comparable one is at a hospital in Utica.

Erica Holoquist, interim director of Fox’s emergency room, said the renovations will increase patient flow and efficiency in her department as well, because the existence of the observation unit will free up more beds in the emergency department.

Scobie said an open house for donors, community members and physicians will be held Tuesday night from 5 to 6:30 in the observation unit, to celebrate its completion. Refreshments will be served, and tours will be given of the new rooms, which nurses said they are very proud of.

“We’re really excited,” Holoquist said.

Scobie said the nurses are enjoying showing off the beautiful new facility. Some people are even saying the amenities remind them of a hotel, she said.

Each room has independent climate control to ensure patient comfort, Gutierrez said, as well as a spacious bathroom with a shower. Rooms are designed so patients’ families can stay there, she said, and portable beds are available for this purpose. Each room has hardwood flooring and a television, Holoquist said, as well as a computer that allows for electronic charting of patient conditions.

The rooms are also equipped with the latest medical technology, such as bedside medication barcode scanning, which will ensure the right patient is getting the right medicine, and state-of-the-art heart monitors, allowing nurses to remotely watch each patient’s cardiac activity.

Gutierrez said many patients in the private observation rooms will be pediatric, and others will be patients whose conditions may be infectious. A patient who is suffering from syncope and has been fainting or passing out would be an ideal candidate for the observation unit, Scobie said, because he or she does not necessarily need to be in the emergency room but should continue to be monitored. The observation unit would also be ideal for patients experiencing chest pain, vomiting or dehydration, she said.

“The observation unit will be very patient-focused,” Gutierrez said, “and will provide an overall better experience for them.”