$57 million expansion remakes CMC-Union

Aug. 13, 2013 @ 09:15 AM

Big things are happening at Carolinas Medical Center-Union.

If you have driven by in the last month, you might have noticed construction crews and heavy equipment. The hospital is in the midst of a $57.2 million expansion focused on the campus’s north side.

Until construction is finished, however, navigating the campus will be a bit different than what the public is used to.

“We want to make sure the public knows how to find their way around campus during construction,” CMC-Union Vice President of Operations Dave Anderson said.

The front entrance was temporarily closed July 1. Visitor parking was moved to a lot on the south side of the hospital. A shuttle service transports visitors from that lot to the hospital entrance. Most regular hospital traffic enters through the emergency department. Directional signs were placed around campus to help drivers find their way, Anderson said.

“We have volunteers and staff serving as greeters at the emergency entrance early in the morning and into the evening to help direct patients and help answer their questions,” he said.

But once the initial phase is done, more changes will take place. Hospital Drive at Franklin Street will close on Aug. 19. Faulk Street, which cuts through campus, will be extended to empty onto Sunset Drive.

The change will accommodate a larger parking lot facing Franklin Street.

“This will add more parking spaces in a more convenient place relative to the main entrance for our patients and visitors,” Anderson said.

But the change also means there is no safe place to put a Franklin Street entrance. The only open space is through a parking lot with heavy foot traffic, which causes a safety concern.

“We will have signs directing people around and to the entrance on 74,” Anderson said. “There will also be signage that will direct them around the hospital to the emergency department. We drove it and it should add only a minute onto travel time.”

The Faulk Street extension should take between six and 8 weeks to complete, weather permitting.

Both maternity and pediatrics departments have outgrown space on the hospital’s second floor. So both will move to a new two-story building expected to be open by late 2014. The space left open by the move will be renovated and 25 beds added to CMC-Union’s capacity

“This project develops a new building which will house our new Women’s and Children’s Center with the (labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum) nursing model,” Anderson said.

The move is an exciting change for staff, CMC-Union Chief Nursing Officer Denise White said.

“The beauty of this is that the whole department was designed by nurses and staff who care for our patients,” White said. “It wasn’t an architect coming in saying here’s what you’re going to do. It was more of a group of clinicians deciding what would make it more family-centered and efficient for the staff.”

For six months, designers worked with doctors, nurses and security staff to design a department with everything that was needed in the perfect place.

“It really was a staff-led project so I’m very excited to see what the space will be like,” she said.

Currently, the maternity department has a traditional set up. There is a different room for every phase of the delivery process. But it means that new moms and families have to pack up and move to a different room at every phase.

The new model will mean all phases take place in the same room.

“It actually makes it more efficient for the physicians and the nursing staff because all of that will be there in one room,” White said. “This way, we can be more efficient and really focus on the family.”

Moms and dads can stay with babies, and extended family has room to visit too. All necessary medical equipment will be close by.

Besides the medical convenience, the new department will be more like a home than a hospital. The surroundings will be inviting instead of clinical. There will be couches for family members to relax on and a sleeping space for dads. Rooms will have refrigerators and the department will feature a dining area. Wireless internet will be available and there will also be a computer room. There will even be a room for young children to play in without disturbing mom and baby.

“It really is more about the experience for the families,” White said.

Even the special care nursery will have space for families of babies in delicate health.

The new pediatrics department will become an extension of Levine’s Children’s Hospital, with a hospitalist on staff. That program starts Sept. 9.

“A hospitalist is a doctor that’s not a part of a private practice but works in a hospital,” Carolinas Healthcare Systems Spokeswoman Marcey Stone said. “So these hospitalists will have a lot of specialty training and board certification for pediatrics but will also specialize in hospital medicine. They’re trained to take care of children in the hospital and monitor a higher acuity patient.”

That means a sicker child can stay in Monroe, close to home, instead of in Charlotte which can be a long drive for parents and families.

“But if there does need to be a transfer to Levine, that’ll be a seamless transfer,” she said.

That also helps community pediatricians, White said. Instead of going to Charlotte for hospitalist consultation about a patient, the same can be done without leaving Union County.

“So we’ll have the incredible care from Levine Children’s Hospital staff available right here in the community,” White said.

The improvements will put CMC-Union on par with maternity and pediatrics departments in Charlotte, only the comfort and care is available close to home.

“I think this allows the community to stay in the community,” White said.