Hospital examines plans for OB redesign

Central Peninsula Hospital is in the preliminary planning stages of a project that could expand its obstetrics department and bring a catheterization lab to the hospital for the first time.

The obstetrics department, housed in the oldest part of the hospital, is now sandwiched between the main entrance and the new specialty clinics building, which opened earlier this year. For the security of mothers and infants, no one can pass through the hallway without being buzzed through multiple doors or unless they have an escort, and the location of the current building also blocks the Emergency Department from expanding.

The hospital has also seen a recent uptick in the number of births. The reason for the increase is not entirely clear, but the trend remains, said Bruce Richards, the government and external affairs manager for the hospital.

The obstetrics department has occupied the same space since the hospital opened in 1971. The hospital’s nonprofit operating board has discussed the need for an update for some time, Richards said. The multi-year strategic plan had originally outlined another major construction phase, known as Phase 6, that would have included the update to the obstetrics wing. This project would be separate, he said.

“Phase 6 would have been a very big project, and because of the size of it, we took a second look at this whole thing to see if maybe we’d have a scaled back version, and that’s kind of where we’ve landed right now,” Richards said.

The hospital’s operating board is still in the early stages of looking at the project and is requesting cost estimates on the design and construction at present, he said. It could be several years before any work is done.

In its current form, the obstetrics department would be moved onto the second floor of a newly constructed two-story building added onto the hospital. The department would occupy an approximately 11,000-square foot space, attached to the medical and surgery wing on the current building.

Beneath it, the hospital would be able to install a catheterization lab. Cath labs, as they are often called, provide diagnostic imaging and procedures for cardiology patients, such as angiograms and pacemaker implantation. Central Peninsula Hospital does not currently have any cath lab functions, so when patients need them they are taken to Anchorage, Richards said.

“That’s one of the big missing pieces we have here for providing those services,” Richards said. “Based on the traffic and the volume that we have here, it’s believed that we have the volumes and capacity to support that.”

The new building would connect a “back-of-house” corridor for patients, so rather than having to wheel patients through the main entrance of the hospital to take them from one wing to another, they would be able to pass through the back of the hospital, affording privacy, according to a presentation Central Peninsula Hospital CEO Rick Davis delivered to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly at its May 17 meeting.

Indirectly, the construction would also expand the hospital’s bed capacity. The 49-bed hospital is reaching its peak capacity more often, but no decision has been made yet on whether to expand the number of total inpatient beds at the hospital, Richards said. However, attaching the conceptual OB facility to the medical and surgical wing could make more beds available when they are not being used for expectant mothers and could put off the need to build more beds until it’s necessary, he said.

If the project is approved, it will require planning for hospital functions while construction is underway — part of the hospital would have to be demolished and some departments, including administration, would be displaced. The hospital administrators are also looking at wrapping two other projects — a redesign of the hospital’s parking lot and a realignment of the helipad — into the construction, Richards said.

Right now, the hospital is in the midst of its three-year Community Health Needs Assessment. The survey polls local residents about their current health needs and desires to provide the hospital administrators feedback on what community members need and want for medical services. The last survey was completed in January 2013.

The hospital took some of that feedback and made changes to implement the programs that respondents requested, such as expanding cancer treatment offerings, Richards said.

Surveyors are still polling by phone, but those who want to complete it can also do so online at kenaihealth.org.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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