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Hospital's expansion to aid care and comfort


As the largest expansion at Carroll Hospital Center heads toward completion this summer, its centerpiece -- a four-story tower that will double the number and size of private rooms at the county's primary medical facility -- will be unveiled one floor at a time, starting tomorrow.

The tower's debut signals the homestretch of the biggest phase of the $80 million project, which broke ground in June 2002. Already completed are an emergency department, lobby, gift shop and front entrance.

Patients in the progressive care unit will be temporarily transferred to the second floor of the tower, which was built atop the hospital's south wing, while the unit is renovated. When that work is complete, progressive care patients will return to the unit's original location, and the second floor of the tower will be used to start an intermediate care unit.

Last week, most of the 24 rooms on the tower's second floor were empty as construction workers, electricians and medical personnel moved beds, installed fixtures and tested equipment. Workers planned to knock down a wall to create an opening that personnel will use to transport patients between the addition and the original hospital building.

Teresa Fletcher, the hospital's director of marketing and public relations, said the tower has an efficient design that will allow nurses to spend more time with their patients.

Nurses' supplies will be at their fingertips in cabinets at six pods -- groups of four private rooms -- on the tower's second floor. The new rooms were built to accommodate a patient wish-list of amenities, including privacy, space to accommodate a sleeper couch for visiting family members and a bathroom. Though the number of beds -- 200 -- won't change, Fletcher said, the number of private rooms will double to 72.

Fletcher said the third and fourth floors of the tower -- which are identical to the floor opening tomorrow -- will be operational in April. The first floor of the tower is part of the existing building.

As part of the hospital's continuing shift toward paperless documentation, the tower will also feature the exclusive use of mobile computer stations that nurses can wheel into patient rooms, Fletcher said.

Using a wireless network, nurses will be able to look up lab results, read transcribed reports and place medication orders. Personal computer kiosks located throughout the floor will also allow physicians to access patient information.

By June, nurses will be able to use the mobile computer carts instead of paper charts, entering information that physicians, pharmacists and other members of the hospital staff can access, Fletcher said.

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