Officials and staff at St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas Hospital held a grand opening Tuesday for Phase One of a three-year, 14-million-dollar renovation project to expand and improve patient care at the location.
Located in the space that was initially the intensive care unit, this first phase of the project is a new same-day surgery center that will provide a spacious and efficient one-stop area for patients from pre-op through surgery and recovery.
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Mitchell explained the scope of the project. "We are completely gutting and renovating all our pre- and post-op areas, our operating rooms, our educational conference room, office space," he said.
The plan for the project is broken into four phases, and Mitchell is already thinking ahead. "So now we are getting into the actual operating room areas. There’s still a lot of work to be done, a lot of inconvenience for our associates and our physicians going forward, but when it’s all said and done...it will be all state-of-the-art and on the same level with Edgewood and Florence – so Fort Thomas is rocking!"
Benita Anderson, chief nursing officer for Florence and Fort Thomas hospitals, said she’s seen a complete transformation of the space in her years at the hospital. "We opened 'the tower' in 1984, and it really was the Taj Mahal. People came from far and wide to see this new tower and how it was going to look with the old hospital. It was very brightly colored, lots of pinks and mauves. The rooms looked so large. We were just amazed."
She said the hospital staff, as well as the community, was blown away by the beautiful new space. Yet, she added, the one constant in care is change. "Times have changed, equipment has changed and patient needs have changed. The complexity changed," she said. "Needs are different, so much more specialized."
Yet, some things don’t change and providing the best environment in which to give care is an important factor, she said. "We can meet the needs of patients by really creating an environment that helps us to do that. It’s not always just about the care; it’s about the environment that allows the caregivers to give that kind of care. I think you certainly see it here, but you can see it through a lot of our growth. Our values and our mission is to give to the community."
She said the renovation project is an extension of that mission. "The individuals that work within [the hospital] are so dedicated...They recognize that to be able to give good care, you have to invest in the environment and invest in the people. If you invest in those two things, the quality follows.'
Nurse Manager Pam Castleberry, who oversees perioperative services, has been with St. Elizabeth for 15 years and at the Fort Thomas location for the last three. "We’ve taken this space, gutted the inside and expanded our same day surgery to be able to provide more advanced technology and more advanced ease of access for outpatient surgeries."
Change, she said, has been constant. "When I first came here, six doctors had retired, so we had to replace that volume. And Fort Thomas was experiencing new growth, so in that time, we’ve revamped, and over the last two years, we’ve been working to renovate the area."
She explained how nurses, physicians and other staff – those who provide the care and work in the new center – had an important hand in the design of the space. She and her two assistant nurse managers collaborated with project architects and designers to create more functional ease of access.
With 25 years in nursing overall, Castleberry can take the long view and has seen how changes in technology have impacted care. "In the industry, the change in innovation has been amazing. We’ve gone from doing an open case [surgeries] to doing laparoscopic cases and to now Divinci robot cases.”
Technology is one thing, she said, but it is the mission that drives St. Elizabeth and this renovation project in particular. "We want to lead the community to be one of the healthiest communities in the nation," she said.