New heart center to make 'dramatic' impact on patient care, education
By Patrice Guilfoyle
From a window on the third floor in the original University Hospital, Gail Carlson snaps pictures of the early demolition stage of a construction project that's been two years in the making.
Carlson, director of cardiovascular services for University Heart, doesn't see bulldozers and mounds of dirt, but a modern, patient-friendly clinic. Instead of separate laboratory spaces, all labs and testing will be housed under one roof for hospital-based procedures.
The construction on new clinic space is expected to begin in February, and it won't be a moment too soon.
"Our faculty has tripled and our patient population is huge compared to what it was a few years ago," said Carlson.
The $16.5 million, 69,325-square-foot cardiovascular center will accommodate all the burgeoning patient and staff needs. The center will occupy space in the basement and on the first, second and third floors.
Dr. Michael Winniford, chief of University Heart, said the new cardiovascular center will be a combination of renovated existing space and new construction. It will be adjacent to the old clinical area (where Student/Employee Health was located) and University Hospital.
"It replaces what's currently in the Heart Station in the basement," he said. "We've outgrown that space. It's antiquated and far too small for our needs."
For the last three years, the current catheterization lab has been located in a trailer behind the emergency room. The electrophysiology lab has been in a modular building in the courtyard behind the Batson Children's Hospital for the last seven years.
"That's evidence of the fact we've outgrown our current facilities," Winniford said.
The catheterization lab treats 153 patients monthly, and the monthly patient visits for the electrophysiology lab is 75. The space is going to provide new inpatient cardiovascular lab facilities, including catheterization, electrophysiology and noninvasive testing such as echocardiograms, vascular and stress testing. The clinic area will have four cath lab suites, two EP labs and 25 outpatient prep/recovery beds.
The facility will include a new conference room to enhance teaching of residents and fellows and meeting space for University Heart staff.
"It will increase our space by at least fivefold compared with the Heart Station," said Winniford. "It will allow us to consolidate all of our CV labs and testing facilities into one location, rather than three. That will be efficient for staff, patients, physicians, and learners.
"The most dramatic impact will be on patient care and education. It will provide much better patient facilities, it will have improved patient access and it will have a large recovery area. It's a much more appealing space with the best equipment."
Outpatient visits will still be at the University Physicians - North Jackson, Grant's Ferry and main campus clinics.
Carlson said patients will immediately notice the improved customer service that comes from convenient centralized operations.
"That means when patients comes to see us, they have one stop. Now we're spaced out, and it makes it hard for staff to be together and work as a team," she said. The construction project is scheduled to be completed by October 2013.