Emerson Expansion Project
Built to Meet the Growing Needs of the South Shore Community
~ By Beth Eburn
South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth has a long history as a well-respected resource and familiar landmark in Southeastern Massachusetts. The hospital is the region’s leading provider of acute, outpatient, home health, and hospice care, and known for its strong commitment to the community and for making a difference in people’s lives. As a direct result of that steadfast commitment, South Shore Hospital has undergone and completed an 18-month long, $43 million building expansion and renovation project designed to help the hospital meet the needs of the growing number of people choosing South Shore Hospital for care. The expansion was partially supported by donations from generous individuals, foundations and businesses in our community.
Over the last decade, South Shore Hospital has experienced a 20 percent increase in emergency department patient visits and inpatient admissions. The hospital attributes the increases to the many advanced clinical programs it offers, such as Level II trauma care, cardiovascular care, neurological care, and cancer care in clinical affiliation with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Expanding the hospital will provide many benefits for patients and their families.
A Transformation of Space and Technology
South Shore Hospital’s Emerson Building, which opened in 1989, is named in honor of Dr. George Emerson, a hospital founder. The building has been extended horizontally by 40 feet and two floors have been added above the original four-floor building. A total of 60 new, private inpatient rooms and additional patient care space have been added to meet the specific needs of medical, surgical, orthopedic, and cancer patients. The hospital’s new McKim Family Main Entrance welcomes patients, families and visitors into an expansive two-level lobby that includes a café and a new, spacious gift shop.
The new fifth and sixth floors each include 25 private rooms, as well as additional amenities and advanced technologies. The fifth floor is designed to meet the specialized needs of orthopedic patients, and the sixth floor is tailored toward the specific needs of cancer patients. Five additional private inpatient rooms have been added to the Emerson Building’s third and fourth patient care floors. Existing rooms on those floors have been renovated, with an additional two feet in width and more light from wall-to-wall windows.
Public areas inside the Emerson Building will open in December, and patient care areas are expected to open in early 2013. The new Paul Snell Conference Center is located on the second floor adjacent to the hospital’s dining room.
Creating a Convenient, Efficient Environment
South Shore Hospital’s new inpatient rooms offer benefits that support the organization’s commitment to patient- and family-centered care. The layout of the new rooms was created with direct input from patients, families and staff to assure the highest levels of quality, comfort, and efficiency and designed to allow family members to be more involved in the healing and comforting process.
A padded bench is built into the room’s windowed wall for visitors. The bench pulls out into a bed for family members who may want to rest or spend the night. There is also plenty of extra space for moving around and housing equipment. Each room has an area right inside the door for medical supplies and linens, eliminating the need for staff to use carts.
Each new inpatient room also has a wall-mounted vital signs monitor positioned at the patient’s bedside. The stationary equipment replaces the need for the portable machines nurses must move from room to room to check patients’ blood pressure, temperature, pulse and respiratory rate. The sophisticated, wall-mounted monitors are programmable and can be set to automatically take and document patients’ vital signs. Having this kind of technology located at the patient’s bedside is efficient and time-saving. It also helps improve infection control because the equipment stays in the room and is used for a single patient.
A Plan with Nothing Missed or Overlooked
The new floors of the Emerson Building also include common areas for patients, families and staff, as well as high-tech nursing stations, conference rooms and more. Hallways include built-in alcoves outside patient rooms for portable IV stands, computer carts and other equipment that can sometimes get in the way. A solarium offers a comfortable, welcoming environment where patients and families can go to relax or socialize. On the fifth floor, orthopedic patients also have access to a rehabilitation gym, where individual and group therapies take place.
“For our patients, especially our total joint replacement patients, the best thing is to get up and get moving – the earlier, the better, and the more, the better,” said Jim Green, executive director, orthopedics, spine and sports medicine. “Having a gym right here on the floor is really going to benefit our patients. Patients who have had the same type of surgery will be able to work on their recovery together. For example, if there are several patients who have had knee surgery, they will be able to get together and participate in group therapy instead of relying on individualized therapy in their own rooms. The psychology of working together can help motivate patients to do better.”
Every inpatient room on the fifth floor also includes a permanent Hoyer lift, an assistive device that is used to safely transfer patients with limited mobility while reducing the risk of injury to the patient and staff. According to Green, the lifts may be used to move a patient from the bed to a chair or for any other transfer that might be necessary. “Other units in the hospital have rooms with Hoyer lifts in place, but our new orthopedic unit is the only floor where every room has one,” he explained. “There won’t be a need for portable patient lifts, which are heavy pieces of equipment that are difficult to move from room to room.”
A Construction Process Where Patients Always Came First
Everywhere you look in the new and improved Emerson Building you see signs of a very well-conceived plan. It is amazing to think that such a transformation was able to take place while the hospital continued to function, continuing to care for patients with the same commitment to quality, safety and compassion as always. Throughout the 18-month project, construction crews worked just feet away from hospital staff and patients.
As hammers banged, saws sawed and walls were demolished, patient comfort remained the top priority at South Shore Hospital. Buffer walls were installed in patient rooms closest to construction to reduce noise. Headphones, ear plugs and other items were made available to patients to minimize the unavoidable sounds of construction.
“Our staff should be commended for the fact that they maintained expert, compassionate care the whole time. They were the hospital’s goodwill ambassadors and our patients’ advocates. They explained to our patients what we were doing and why we were doing it, and prepared patients in advance for what to expect,” said Vicki Koertge, MSN, RN, OCN, oncology nurse manager. “We all did whatever was necessary to accommodate our patients and their families. So did the construction team. Patient care was always our first concern above anything else, and our patients knew that.”
As the oncology nurse manager, Koertge saw many positive moments when everything else stopped to focus on a patient or family’s need. In instances where quiet was important for a patient to heal or for a family to grieve, construction was silenced – even if that meant a specific project had to be rescheduled or postponed.
Koertge shares the story of a young boy whose sister was a patient during construction. On a day when his sister was having a particularly difficult time and needed their mother’s full attention, something rather special happened. Koertge brought the boy into another room to color. When the little fellow went to look out the window and saw all the construction workers, he told Vicki “I want to be a construction guy when I grow up.” Koertge made a quick call. Before long, a member of the construction team showed up for a visit with the gift of a helmet, safety glasses and stickers. By the time Vicki brought the youngster back to his sister’s room, her condition was stabilized. Their mother had been able to focus her complete attention on her daughter when she needed to, while her son was well taken care of.
A Project Completed Thanks to Community Support
Funding for the Emerson Expansion Project depended heavily on philanthropy and a capital fund-raising campaign with a goal of raising at least $40 million – the largest campaign ever in Southeastern Massachusetts. The community rallied in support of South Shore Hospital, with the McKim Family Foundation alone making a $5 million donation to the Campaign for Healing, Caring and Comforting – the largest gift in the hospital’s 90-year history.
Braintree-native Alan S. McKim, founder and president/ceo of Clean Harbors, said at the time, “My four children and I are honored to help South Shore Hospital, which touches more lives in our region every day than any other charity. We will be eternally grateful for how it has helped our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We hope that our gift will inspire others to step forward to help this great cause.”
This was a project born and nurtured out of a hospital’s strong commitment to serving its community, and it was a project embraced and largely funded by a community supporting the mission of its hospital. And that speaks volumes about both the hospital and the community… and the bond between the two.
For more information about South Shore Hospital and its Emerson Expansion Project, please visit southshorehospital.org/emersonexpansion.
SOUTH SHORE HOSPITAL
55 Fogg Road at Route 18, South Weymouth, MA 02190