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Published: Saturday, 2/16/2002

Area hospitals grow, upgrade

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Hospital's $200 million plan to build a modern medical center got the lion's share of the region's health-care headlines in 2001, but facilities in the outlying area were busy as well with expansion projects.

In Defiance, ProMedica Health System completed the exterior of a new health center that will replace Defiance Hospital by fall.

Fostoria Community Hospital finished plans for a 30,000-square-foot expansion and plans to break ground next month.

And in Lima, St. Rita's Medical Center completed the first phase of an expansion that includes its emergency department and trauma center.

The overriding goal of such projects, officials said, is increased efficiency and patient convenience.

Mary Beth Weisenburger, director of marketing and public relations for Defiance Hospital, said the new Defiance Regional Medical Center will offer larger patient rooms, an expanded emergency department, and a layout that groups related services for patient and staff convenience.

The $40 million facility, on 75 acres northwest of Defiance, will be a big improvement over the current hospital, parts of which are more than 50 years old, she said.

“It's going to be an interesting, exciting year for us,” Ms. Weisenburger said. “And this new facility will be a tremendous asset for the community.”

The new hospital will be about the same size as the current facility, about 200,000 square feet. But how that space is used in the new building will make a world of difference, Ms. Weisenburger said.

“This one is more patient-friendly,” she said. “The outpatient services are all grouped together on the first floor, so it's much more convenient. All of the inpatient beds are located on the second floor. We have a separate emergency entrance, and an expanded emergency department, which will be more private for patients.”

Other features will include private rooms for patients, instead of the semiprivate accommodations in the current hospital. The patient rooms will be larger and include sleeper sofas for family members who want to stay overnight.

A women's center will offer spacious private rooms where expectant mothers can go through labor, delivery, and recovery without moving.

Fostoria Community Hospital's expansion will include a new surgery department, said Evelyn Marker, director of public relations and marketing.

That part of the project, estimated to cost $5 million to $6 million, is targeted for completion by the end of the year. A second phase, to cost $5 million to $8 million, will house expanded diagnostic services, she said.

The goal is to “make everything more accessible, more user-friendly,” Ms. Marker said. “It makes more sense that the X-rays are right next to the emergency room.”

The addition will tie directly into an emergency room and medical office building the hospital constructed in 1997.

At St. Rita's in Lima, the emergency room expansion will allow the hospital to treat an additional 20,000 patients a year, spokeswoman Brenda Burgy-Schweizer said.

The hospital plans to add 50 beds during the next four years to its current total of 424. In January, St. Rita's added 13 cardiovascular intensive care beds to its open-heart unit and 11 beds to its women's surgical area.

The Lima hospital also opened a disease management center in October, uniting its asthma and congestive heart failure clinics under one roof.

This year, St. Rita's plans to break ground on a fourth medical office building, a $15 million project, and intends to invest another $15 million on improved technology for the medical center.

“We will continue to expand services so residents will no longer have to leave the area for their medical care,” Ms. Burgy-Schweizer said. “Everything they need will be in their own backyard.”

In Sandusky, Firelands Hospital bought Providence Hospital, combining with its former rival to form the Firelands Regional Medical Center. Changes resulting from the merger included closing the emergency room at the former Providence Hospital, now the Firelands south campus, and consolidating them at Firelands' new main campus.

Firelands also expanded its surgery and obstetrics departments in 2001.

In southern Wood County, two hospitals and a nursing home cooperated on a medical center to serve patients who'd rather not drive to Bowling Green or Findlay.

The North Baltimore Medical and Diagnostic Center, which opened in August, has two physicians' offices, a laboratory, a radiology facility, and a physical therapy center to treat outpatients and residents from the adjacent Blakely Care Center.

The center is a joint venture of Blakely Care Center, Wood County Hospital, and Blanchard Valley Regional Health Center.

The joint venture is intended to give residents of southern Wood County and northern Hancock County access to primary care and a choice of hospitals, said Deb Chatfield, a spokeswoman for Wood County Hospital.



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