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Morris Hospital showcases new emergency department during open house

Open house showcases phase one of upgrades at Morris Hospital

Morris Hospital is in the midst of a four phase, multi-million dollar renovation and revitalization project. On Sunday, members of the community got a chance to see the results of phase one of that project, touring the hospital's new emergency department and women's imaging center.

The renovation represents $33.5 million of the hospital's $60 million master facility plan.

Everything on the first floor of the hospital is now new or newly renovated, according to Tom Dohm, Vice President of Professional Services at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers. Dohm said the goal was to increase the amount of square footage for clinical space on the first floor, reassigning administrative and office space that once occupied the first floor to other areas of the hospital.

The renovation increased the hospital's clinical space by 12,000 square feet, and moved all patient-related services to the east side of the hospital. Only those patients who come by ambulance will use a different point of entry.

"The idea is to be sure that patients can find their way easily, because what we found over the years is about 40% of the time, a patient enters the wrong door for their service," Dohm said. "We had multiple entrances, so they would come in the wrong entrance. And for many patients, it's hard to move around or ambulate, so this makes it easy. It's only one location, one entrance to go into."

The new ED has 17 treatment areas, an upgrade from the previous 11 areas. The department also has a rapid care area, safe rooms, and trauma rooms.

The current emergency department remains operational pending state inspections of the new space, however, Dohm said relocating the entire department actually made construction easier, since it was not disruptive to the current space.

Dohm added that the model for the new ED is also different, with a small waiting room and plans for direct rooming of patients.

"The idea is, there's no waiting," Dohm said. "When patients come for their service, they'll actually be triaged right away by a provider. So, they'll be greeted by a nurse or a mid-level provider and the patient will identify why they're here. We do a quick triage and decide if they can be treated very quickly in the rapid care area or if they have to be taken back to a room for a more thorough diagnosis and more thorough care. About 50% of our patients who come through our ED probably fit this category of rapid care, so it's a pretty quick and easy and efficient way to move them, to get them on their way."

Phase one also included a new women's imaging center just past the main entrance.

"This is a very important improvement for us because many women who have cancer, breast cancer in particular, will come to the hospital often," Dohm said. "We wanted to create a very private, boutique kind of space, so, once they get into the suite itself, it's very private."

Additionally, phase one included significant upgrades to the infusion center. Dohm said patients undergoing infusion therapy often visit the hospital 20 to 30 times, and treatments can last several hours. Before the upgrades, those patients were squeezed into a smaller room, sometimes three at a time. The changes have made it a more comfortable space. One of the key features is the addition of windows to provide plenty of outdoor lighting.

"It's very important, especially for patients who are here for a long time," Dohm said. "In fact, two of the larger rooms that are designated for infusions that take many hours, those have windows from floor to ceiling, so, it's really a beautiful space."

Once the new ED is operational, the hospital will turn to phase two of the master facility plan, to turn the current ED space into an expanded imaging center, as well as combining the cath lab with cardiology.

Phase three will involve a new design to surgery, which will be one of the smaller items addressed by the plan, since many surgeries are reassigned to the outpatient surgery center.

Phase four will convert the former outpatient entrance area into administration offices, as well as space for education and meeting rooms, moving non-patient services to the west side of the hospital.

The Morris Hospital master facility plan has been in development for the past seven years.

"It has been well thought out, and it's been years and years in development," Dohm said, adding that the plan originally even explored the option of building a new hospital.

The plan is funded through bond financing for $60.5 million.

While the new ED is not operational just yet, a major change at the hospital went into effect on Monday, when the entrance off High Street opened as the main entrance for all visitors. That means anyone who comes to the hospital for appointments, outpatient care, or to visit a patient will enter through the circle drive off of High Street.

The current emergency department will operate off the northwest corner of the building until mid-February, when the new wing will open following state inspections.

"The whole idea is getting patients their care as quickly and efficiently as possible," Dohm said. "That's why we've moved all the way up to the front. It also creates a safer hospital, because now we can eliminate unnecessary traffic. It's better for staff, better for patients and families don't get lost through all the different hallways, so it's very self-contained."

The master facility plan will continue for another two years, with project completion of all four phases expected by the end of 2021.

Dohm added that the reconstruction and renovation projects are part of the overall plan for Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers to maintain independence and serve the community.

"Morris Hospital is an independent, non-for-profit community hospital," Dohm said. "That is a dying breed, so to speak. More and more hospitals are becoming part of systems. It is our desire and our goal, and our board supports us in this, in fact they feel really strongly, we want to maintain our independence and stay a community hospital. All decisions are made here, most of us live in the community, we know the patients that we serve, and we just think it's the best model for Grundy County and the surrounding community."

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