New wing at Bartlett complete

$25.2 million makeover includes expanded critical care, obstetrics and emergency units

Posted: Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The completion of a new $25.2 million wing at Bartlett Regional Hospital means more medical services in town and fewer people who will have to leave town for medical care.

"If you look back historically to where this hospital was 10, 15, 20 years ago, we've come a long way and we're still headed forward," interim CEO Jim Richardson said.

Construction began in August 2004, with the project adding nearly 55,000 square feet to the original 110,000-square-foot facility completed in 1971. The hospital in the Twin Lakes area hosted an open house for the new wing on Tuesday.

"It brings about 50 percent more square feet to the entire facility," Richardson said. "We have greatly expanded our services."

The space and services provided in Phase I of the hospital's makeover have expanded the Emergency Department, diagnostic imaging, the critical care unit, the obstetrics unit and mental health facilities, Richardson said.

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"We're set up for almost anything," he said. "We have some state-of-the-art equipment that we're really excited about."

Hospital staff has begun moving into some of the units and will gradually complete the transition during the next four weeks, construction manager Bruce Hahnlen said.

Phase II of the renovation is expected to cost about $20 million and already has begun, Hahnlen said. The second phase is scheduled to take 18 months to complete.

Staff will begin moving patients into the Critical Care Unit around noon today and are expecting at least one patient to make the transfer, registered nurse Rhio Harper said.

The expansion of the CCU not only ensures greater privacy and space for the patients but also provides greater resources for family members, she said. The unit now has furniture that unfolds into beds for the families to stay with their loved ones.

"That's new," she said. "We've only been able to offer a lounge chair, and the family has had to crunch around the bed."

The availability of sleeping arrangements will be particularly helpful for critical pediatric care, Harper said.

"We really like to have the family stay with the child," she said.

The expansion of the obstetrics and nursery area, known as Bartlett Beginnings, also provides parents with more comfortable surroundings, obstetrics nurse manager Catherine Carter said.

In the old unit, mothers would deliver children in one room and then be moved to another for recovery.

"(Now) the baby stays in the room with the mom," Carter said. "The mom gets to bond immediately, ... which is really important."

The unit offers five specialized birthing rooms, which include whirlpool baths to ease pain during the early stages of labor, she said.

"It's always best to do what you can that isn't medicine-related and see how well that works before you start using medicine," Carter said. "So that's a comfort level that we never had before."

Bartlett Beginnings is scheduled to begin the transition of its patients next week and could see the first birth in its new facilities as early as Tuesday, she said.

By offering more advanced services in the new units, the hospital hopes to keep more residents from seeking medical treatment outside of Juneau, Richardson said.

"Our intent is to become more and more comprehensive and to keep as many people home as we can and to provide the service here," he said.

With Phase II of the project already underway, interim CEO Richardson said there is a possibility that a third phase could become a reality.

"We have a strategic plan envisioned for a much larger mental health service that would indeed be a regional service for Southeast Alaska," he said.

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