The multitude of services offered at Huntsville Memorial Hospital could be growing after the Board of Managers of the Walker County Hospital District held a meeting to address the needs of the community and the hospital Wednesday evening.
Shannon Brown, CEO of Huntsville Memorial, gave a special presentation on the proposed changes needed, which include expanding the capabilities of the Intensive Care Unit and the Emergency Services Department or ER as both units reach capacity quickly and remain full frequently.
“Over the last three years, we’ve grown substantially,” Brown said during the presentation. “We have already expanded considerably along numerous service lines including cardiology and neurology with the addition of the Heart and Vascular Lab.
“We commissioned this study to look at where we need to go in the future. The study came back and said that we need to expand on two fronts, which includes our Emergency Services Department services and our Intensive Care Unit.”
On the table is a proposed expansion that would call for the construction of a new, one-story addition to the existing hospital that would add 30,000 square feet of usable space for physicians and staff. The given space would allow for the addition of 10 dedicated ICU beds, six IMU or “progressive-care” beds, and a 10-bed Clinical Decision Unit with additional support and storage space. Additionally, the new structure would have 4,000 square feet of unassigned shell space for future use and would be designed to accommodate future vertical expansion of two to three more floors.
“A few years ago, we were transferring a significant number of patients out of our community and that caused extensive efficiency issues,” Brown said. “We were transferring out about 200 patients a month and now we’re down to about 80 each month. What we’ve found through the study is that 25 to 30 of these patients on any given month come directly from our intensive care unit.”
In addition to housing more patients from the community, the new expansions and modifications will allow Huntsville Memorial to fully separate the Texas Department of Criminal Justice offenders from the general public housed in the hospital.
“One of our objectives is to create a separation between the offenders housed in the ER and the patients of our community, which has been a subject of contention that we’ve talked about on a consistent basis,” Brown said Wednesday. “Currently we have 15 (ER) beds and this would take up 20, significantly increasing our abilities as our emergency needs have been growing 5.5 percent each year.”
By expanding and remodeling the current ER floor plan, the hospital is set to add four rooms to the current count, providing an opportunity to completely separate patients from offenders both in transit and during in-house care.
Other improvements to the ER will include upgrades to the nursing stations, non-wax based flooring, fresh paint, new cabinets and doors with the old counters and cabinets being moved to the “offender care” area. The hospital plans to utilize cost-effective materials throughout and the approximate timeline for the ER expansion would be four to six weeks.
“One important thing is that we’re planning on doing this expansion from within the revenue of the hospital,” said Robert Hardy, Chairman of the WCHD Board of Managers. “We’re not talking about an increase in taxes to do this.
“We built this hospital with revenue bonds and we’re now looking at commercial financing, bonds or whatever will provide us with the best opportunities. As far as the (WCHD) is concerned, we’re behind Huntsville Memorial Hospital 100 percent because we recognize the need.”
With approval already garnered from state agencies, HMH can move on to the next step in the expansion process, including finalizing plans with the architectural firm and sorting out financial options. With a main goal of providing the necessary care for the citizens of Huntsville, Brown is optimistic that Huntsville Memorial Hospital will be able to provide thanks to the proposed expansion.
“We’re currently talking to the architect and we’re looking to move into the financing phase and the architectural phase now,” Brown added. “By the time we would break ground, until the end, we’re looking at about a year and a half for completion of the ICU addition.
“We’re excited at the opportunity to continue to serve meet the needs of our community on a consistent basis.”