So, as we discussed in previous blog entries, the Acute Care/Swing Bed side of the building sees an average of 2.2 patients per day. In peak months, that number rises to 3.5. Compare that to our Long Term Care, which usually has 14 permanent residents calling that wing home.
Home. It’s important to remember that this is their home now. That while Doctors, RNs, CNAs and others are scrambling around at work in their wing, they still have to feel comfortable, because this is where they reside.
So while flex areas are being utilized in many areas throughout the conceptual designs, allowing the campus to expand for coverage during surge times, the LTC wing is going to be bigger. There are going to be more designated areas and the rooms are going to be larger.
Right now, the current WMC facility has a large day room for the residents. It features large windows, comfy recliners, table areas to eat, and enough room to host guests. While it does provide enough room for residents to experience plenty of daily activities, it’s far from ideal and does come with many challenges.
First off, there’s separate dining and activities rooms in the conceptual design. No longer will residents have to eat in the same area they have activities in. No longer will they be limited to their personal room or Day Room as their indoor activity options. No longer will staff have to worry about cleaning up meals prior to activities, or vice versa. Just separating those two areas is going to improve their quality of life, which is what WMC is always striving to do.
That doesn’t include the support area, or the placeholder in the design as we discussed earlier. That strip down the middle will contain a lot of things, from restrooms to storage and offices. Also in there will be some sort of family room. That family room will provide a little more privacy for visitors, perfect for birthday parties or quiet conversations outside of the resident’s private room.
That’s right, I said private room. No more roommates. Conceptual designs have private rooms for each of our maximum 14 residents, with 7 bathrooms to be shared by suitemates. These will be spacious rooms, with each private room larger than the rooms residents are required to share in the current WMC facility. Each of the restrooms will be ADA compliant – large enough for wheelchairs to enter, safe enough for all to use.
SEARHC is looking to provide the ideal LTC experience in the state. If they can accomplish that in the new, proposed campus, they will look to expand. We want our elders to stay in Wrangell. We want elders to see Wrangell as the superior nursing and ask to relocate to our island. During presentations, Wold and SEARHC have hammered home the fact they want to design and construct a premium LTC. They’re confident that by doing so, we’ll have a waiting list of potential residents anxious to spend their days with us.
After votes by the Wrangell Borough Assembly and the SEARHC Board of Directors, the parties have the green light to bring WMC under the SEARHC umbrella.
As the joint press release states, the Borough and and SEARHC can now "officially move forward formalizing an affiliation to transfer the operations of the hospital." It's a mouthful, but in short - SEARHC is going to run WMC, with a target date for the day after Halloween.
SEARHC will be responsible for all operational, financial and legal costs for operating the current WMC facility and services. In addition to keeping the doors open on our 50-year-old hospital, they've also promised to build that new healthcare campus they've been talking about, and have be cutting the ribbon on that property in less than four years.
So what's next? Well, for starters, about 90-120 days of paperwork. Ensuring a smooth hand-off of a hospital is quite the process. We're not just talking about the 60-some staff who will be SEARHC employees by the holidays, or the patients and residents who will be under WMC-watch at the time of the transfer. This paperwork will spell out how to sign over everything but the building and the accounts receivable, which will stay with the City.
Wold Architects have been given the go-ahead to flesh out those design plans. Hopefully they'll be able to come back and give the community another taste of conceptual drawings to hold us over. This is Alaska, which means fair-weather construction, so look for SEARHC to push for some work to be done on the new campus next summer. If not, they could be pushing it with that four-year window.
Keep checking the blog for more updates. A major hurdle has been cleared, perhaps the tallest one, but we still have a ways to go before WMC staff is wearing SEARHC swag and patients are being cared for on Wood St.
You may have noticed this puppy parked outside the hospital if you were driving to the Elementary School, or while walking the loop. You may have even been wheeled out there yourself if you were being cared for by our Imaging Staff. For those who didn’t know, contained inside is the WMC CT scanner.
Before diving into the conveniences or challenges with having a CT scanner separate from the main facility, and the need for an indoor home in the new building, let’s start by showing the old gal some love.
The date was Nov. 9, 2011. Pictured is our beloved Imaging Dept. staff cutting the ribbon, excited to be now offering WMC patients a step beyond X-Ray. Dr. Lynn Prysunka told the Wrangell Sentinel the scanner, “helps diagnose or rule out conditions that may have required patients to leave town, possibly by Medevac … a wonderful addition to local services.”
Ultimately, the scanner saves precious time and money. In the years prior to the trailer, patients may have to be sent to Ketchikan or Juneau just for diagnosis. This was not practical, for the patients or the WMC staff.
“At the time, it was amazing to receive the CT scanner,” said Ann Kramer, who heads up the Imaging Dept. “We’ve saved patients millions of dollars in Medevacs. Before, we’d just have to send them out.”
WMC was long overdue for this capability, and through the magic of grants, no local money was needed. Funding from the Denali Commission, Department of Agriculture and the Murdock Charitable Trust footed the entire bill, shipping all the way from Ann Arbor, Mich., included.
For six and a half years, the scanner has faithfully served WMC patients. Though, when the ribbon is cut on the new hospital, I’m not sure any tears will be shed when they eye-sore of a trailer isn’t parked outside. Being disconnected causes many challenges, be it the isolation from the rest of WMC staff and equipment, the elements from taking patients physically outside in the weather, or the distance between the trailer and the rest of the Imaging Dept.
The good news - Wold has a designated spot in the conceptual design for an in-house CT scanner. Not only do they have a spot for the scanner, but they’ll have designated rooms for all radiology services.
Gone are the days of a maze of connected rooms and a single shared bathroom. In the conceptual, separate rooms are mapped out for all services offered by WMC Imaging, not including the support area placeholder for more spaces, and each of those areas are equipped with bathrooms and/or changing rooms. Imaging will also be adjacent to the Sub-Waiting area, which will provide patients another location to gather in addition to near reception, and pass-thru hallways will provide ease of service to all areas of the campus.
It was a great day for WMC and Imaging when the trailer showed up and parked outside in the fall of 2011. It will also be a great day for WMC and Imaging when it’s gone and services are provided under one roof.