By Bob Caylor
of The News-Sentinel
In less than three weeks, Lutheran Hospital will move patients into its newly completed fifth floor. At a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, hospital administrators provided a sneak peek for reporters and others in the new facility.
The fifth floor is dedicated to cardiac care, including a cardiac intensive-care unit. All 96 of the patient rooms on the fifth floor are private rooms, and about 80 percent of the 396 total rooms at Lutheran are now private, said Joyce Walz, executive director of cardiac services. Eventually all the rooms in the hospital will become private rooms, she said. No deadline has been set to change all the hospital's rooms to private rooms, but hospital officials expect that to happen by the end of 2012.
Lutheran Health Network CEO Joe Dorko said converting the hospital entirely to private rooms will increase patient satisfaction – as hospital staff members found through patient surveys. It also will allow doctors and nurses to provide better care for patients, beginning with the greater privacy and openness of conversation in a private room.
Hospital officials would not say how much the rooms cost per day or whether private rooms are more costly than semi-private rooms. Spokesman Geoff Thomas said the cost of rooms varies, according to method of payment, such as private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Thomas said that when patients are transferred into the cardiac unit rooms Dec. 11, they will be charged the same rates as they were being charged in their private or semi-private rooms before the transfer.
Walz agreed that privacy and confidentiality tend to provide patients with better experiences in the hospital, but she said there are benefits beyond patient care in the new rooms.
“Private rooms provide a quieter environment,” she said. Walz also noted that not sharing a room with another patient reduces the chance of contracting a secondary illness while hospitalized.
The rooms have much larger, brighter, easier-to-read monitors. The beds are equipped to tilt and help nurses turn patients, which reduces the chances of hurting patients or injuring nurses, she said.
Before the ribbon-cutting, Lutheran Hospital CEO Brian Bauer said the new rooms and updating throughout the hospital will cater to the most crucial audience – patients who need help.
“I know we have VIPs here – thank you, Mr. Mayor, for coming out,” he said to Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “But our real VIPs are our patients.”
For his part, Henry praised the contribution that Lutheran is making to the community with the $42.3 million addition. Beyond patient care itself, the mayor noted the educational opportunities Lutheran provides, as well as the roughly 7,000 jobs Lutheran Health Network provides in the region.
“They're not only just jobs, but careers, with great pay and benefits,” Henry said.
Larry Weigand, president and CEO of Weigand Construction, discussed the challenges of being general contractor for the addition, from dropping a tower crane through a stairway to preventing leaks into the fourth floor as workers added a fifth.
“This project was not just another health care project. It was very complex,” Weigand said.