The Bayonet

Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2014

Hospital on schedule for November opening

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Construction on the new Martin Army Community Hospital is nearing its end, with an eye toward being ready to receive patients by Nov. 17.

As of May 30, the project was 94 percent complete, hospital officials said.

The new hospital will be a major upgrade in size, as it will cover roughly 745,000 square feet of space.

"That doesn't increase the number of beds we have necessarily, but what you'll see is all the rooms have private bathrooms and there's space for Family members," said Col. Scott Avery, MACH commander. "There's so much more room for the patient and the care of the patient that the experience is just going to be phenomenal."

The increase in space will also allow for the hospital to provide most of Fort Benning's medical services under one roof, as opposed to housing different departments in different buildings.

"We'll be pulling a lot of things into this building that we're currently conducting in multiple locations around the installation," said David Fortune, the Army Health Facility Planning Agency's Southeast region program manager. "You get continuity of practice out of that, continuity of care, an increased level of convenience for the patients and the level of interconnectivity for the staff that you need. This facility really provides the opportunity for Martin Army to pull some of those things that had grown over the years and needed more space into this facility."

Among the upgraded services will be an all-new pharmacy that will feature an automated dispensing system, handicapped-accessible windows, a one-on-one counseling area and a design that allows for more interaction between pharmacist and patient.

Fortune said the design of the pharmacy will be a major benefit for patients.

"The old traditional way of servicing pharmacy patrons where they took a number and waited is a thing of the past," he said. "The experience that you're going to have is if you have to spend time waiting for a prescription to be filled, that wait will be diminished significantly."

Lt. Col. Stacey Causey, the pharmacy chief, said the efficient design will also allow the pharmacy to offer a drop-off service, something it does not offer at its current location.

"This provides much more space and the overall design is great," Causey said, "I'm looking forward to being able to get the staff in here."

Master Sgt. Charles Hall, the pharmacy's NCOIC, said the new pharmacy will allow pharmacy staff to be reunited in a single space.

"It's one floor now for outpatient, inpatient and support, whereas right now we're separated across two different floors and two different spaces," Hall said. "We're also kind of cramped, and this provides a huge opportunity for expansion. It'll be a lot of changes for us, but it's all focused on the patient and bettering patient care. We want to keep them satisfied and be able to connect with them."

In addition to a new pharmacy space, the new hospital will feature expanded and upgraded inpatient behavioral health services.

The current hospital has a capacity of 10 behavioral health patients, while the new facility will have a capacity of 24.

The new hospital will also have an upgraded MRI area, featuring a 1.5 Tesla MRI and a 3T MRI.

"This is going to be a lot better for us to be able to treat TBI patients because the 3T MRI is one of the treatment modalities that neuropsychologists use to help identify traumatic brain injuries," Avery said. "Presently, we send some of our MRI work to Columbus, but we'll be able to keep it all in-house here."

All patient rooms at the new hospital will be single-patient rooms, and will include bathrooms and space for Family members who wish to remain with their loved ones during the duration of the hospital stay. Rooms will also have patient lifts to reduce physical stress on staff members and the risk of injury to the patient.

The inpatient wing of the hospital will also feature a mixture of centralized and decentralized nursing facilities.

"There's a rapid departure from centralized nursing toward decentralized nursing in order to put nurses out where patients actually are," Fortune said. "You've got to provide for the nurses' needs in those environments, and that's sometimes about electronics and an ability to input charting at a location and it's also about providing space for the providers as well. ... We still need to provide a space for nurses to have a dialogue, so we've done the best we could in providing for both needs."

In addition to its inpatient services, outpatient care will also be offered at the new facility in two separate wings.

"With inpatient procedures, you really want a quiet environment," Fortune said. "It's a much more low volume than outpatient. With outpatient visits, patient contact is about 20 minutes, whereas inpatient visits are long duration stays. So, by simply segregating the two populations, both patient populations benefit. We can give you a more efficient arrangement of space in both areas."

The outpatient clinics will feature a design similar to that of an airport concourse, Fortune said, enabling patients to quickly and easily find their particular service. All exam rooms and spaces in the outpatient wings can also be quickly and easily reassigned for different uses as needed.

The new hospital campus will also have roughly twice the number of available parking spaces as the current hospital, and the interior of the facility is designed to allow visitors to be able to find their way back to their car without confusion.

"How many people have been in a hospital where it's very difficult to figure out where you are in a very intimidating building?" Fortune asked. "The design of this facility was intended to take all of those things that are normal stressors for you and give you some queues in order to compare where you are to where you parked your car, which is how most people navigate."

All in all, Fortune said the new Martin Army will be a boon for the Fort Benning community.

"This facility really gives us the opportunity to grow forward in ways that the legacy facility doesn't," he said. "We think this is going to be a great amenity for Fort Benning and for the Maneuver Center of Excellence going forward."

And while the hospital will be filled with new features and amenities, Avery said the commitment to providing access to care will remain.

"Every one of our patients has access to the CEO of this hospital - me," he said. "That doesn't happen in the civilian sector. We are measured by our access to care standards, and we have the highest quality and access to safe, quality care here at Martin Army Community Hospital."

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