Westminster outpatient care facility up and running


Carroll Hospital Center has opened its 8,000-square-foot, $1.7 million outpatient center, which hospital officials say will give residents more in-county treatment options for chronic ailments.

The opening of the center ushers in the last phase of the Westminster hospital's $80 million renovation project, which broke ground in June 2002.

The first phase, finished during the summer, included a new and larger emergency department, a four-story tower with 72 private rooms, a new front entrance and lobby, and a gift shop.

The expansion project has added 100,000 square feet to the hospital, for a total of 378,000 square feet.

The outpatient center has taken over the space vacated when the emergency department relocated to the hospital's new wing. Officials said the center puts five in-demand services under one roof: wound care, a diabetes program, a cardiac rehabilitation program, a pulmonary rehabilitation program and an anti-coagulation clinic.

Officials said the center combines consultation services with clinical treatment -- from custom programs designed to foster healthier eating and strengthening the heart and lungs, to cutting-edge technology targeting chronic wounds.

"This is not just about treating the wound but about treating the whole person," said Teresa Fletcher, the hospital's director of marketing and public relations.

New equipment and spacious treatment rooms replaced halls once crowded with gurneys and medical supplies, officials said. The center also gives the hospital its first two state-of-the-art hyperbaric oxygen chambers, which help speed up the healing of chronic wounds using a pressurized system that pumps 100 percent oxygen to the patient. The center's staff also tend to ulcers and burns.

About 20 full-time and part-time staffers work at the center, which employs registered nurses, receptionists and clinical technicians. Six hospital physicians, specializing in general, vascular and orthopedic surgery and podiatry, work four-hour rotations.

While three of the services have been offered at the hospital previously, the wound care and pulmonary rehabilitation programs are new. The center is expanding the other services.

Giving outpatients a separate building and entrance makes the center easily accessible, officials said. It will save them the confusion of weaving through the main hospital to reach the center, said Cathie L. Monge, the hospital's vice president of professional and support services, who oversaw the planning of the center.

Monge also said the new center will keep Carroll residents from going outside the county to get the services it provides.

Monge said she and Sharon Gomes, director of cardiac pulmonary and outpatient services, spent a year researching other outpatient centers at similar community-based hospitals in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Prince George's counties.

The center opened in phases, with patients beginning to use the anti-coagulation clinic and the diabetes and cardiac programs in October.

Gomes said the center has seen nearly 60 clients a day.

The wound care center opened Monday, and had already scheduled 30 appointments for its first 10 days, officials said.

"We had a lot of demand for wound care," Gomes said. "These are people who need specialized and consistent follow-up to heal their wounds."

Today marks the debut of the pulmonary rehabilitation program.

All the services except the wound care program require physician referrals.

Patients who are on medication that prevents blood from clotting can make appointments to use the anti-coagulation clinic, which will monitor their level of use and inform them of any changes.

Some of the services may seem more familiar than others.

The cardiac rehabilitation program uses a gym at the center featuring treadmills, rowers and other exercise machines; customized exercise programs are designed for patients who are recovering from heart attacks or bypass surgery.

"It's like going to a gym, but we have nurses monitoring heart rates and providing education to prevent a recurrence of cardiac problems," Gomes said.

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