OhioHealth Doctors Hospital opened a new $27.5-million two-story facility last month that officials say not only doubles the size of the hospital, but transforms the way the hospital cares for its patients.

OhioHealth Doctors Hospital opened a new $27.5-million two-story facility last month that officials say not only doubles the size of the hospital, but transforms the way the hospital cares for its patients.

The official opening of both the new emergency department and Heritage Center for Osteopathic Medical Education took place May 9. The expansion was approved by the OhioHealth Board of Trustees in 2008 and was funded with a $15-million contribution from OhioHealth and a $12.5-million grant from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations.

The new emergency department increases in size from 14,000 to 30,000 square feet and can handle up to 100,000 patient visits a year.

"The old emergency department was very outdated," said Michael Reichfield, president of Doctors Hospital. "Patients were kept in cubicles separated by curtains and there wasn't a lot of work space."

Reichfield said the old emergency department had been accommodating 70,000 patient visits a year in a space designed for only 30,000. The new emergency department includes 48 private exam rooms, two trauma rooms, seven triage rooms, indoor/outdoor decontamination facilities, a café and comfortable waiting room.

Dr. Rob Lowe of the emergency department said even though staff is still making the transition from the old to new department, there has been a tremendous difference in efficiency.

"So far it has been fantastic," Lowe said. "It's a better facility for the patient. It's more private, it's more comfortable and it's designed to be more efficient."

Lowe said the emergency department has already seen a boost in volume. The day of opening saw more than 200 patients, he said.

Lowe said it's great that patients have their own space separated by walls, not curtains. The patient pods are more flexible and allow more functionality, he said.

X-rays are now done within the emergency department, Lowe said. Also new is an indoor/outdoor decontamination system that can service up to 100 patients in an hour if a chemical disaster should occur.

Reichfield said the expansion and improvements came at a time when the board of trustees thought that the West Side may experience some growth. The board had no idea a casino would be built a few miles down the road, he said.

"Our service area will definitely expand," Reichfield said. "There will be 2,000 permanent jobs created and with those jobs is about 8,000 family members."

Reichfield said even if the casino didn't happen, the West Broad Street Corridor is slowly growing again.

"The improvements we made to our campus directly impact the surrounding neighborhoods," he said. "We have made street improvements around the hospital to contribute to the overall appearance of the West Broad Street Corridor."

Perhaps the crown jewel of the expansion project is the Heritage Center for Osteopathic Medical Education, located on the second floor of the new addition.

Deborah Blackwell, vice president of medical education, said the center consolidates all medical education and research programs into a training facility where residents have the chance to work with human patient simulators, an anatomical laboratory, and have access to a medical library.

"How phenomenal for our residents," Blackwell said. "The new center along with our programs makes Doctors Hospital more attractive to the best residents from all over the country."

Blackwell said the hospital pulls in about 170 residents a year. Those residents have a unique opportunity to not only train at Doctors Hospital but to spend time at other hospitals in the Ohio Health family.

"We are a part of this large health care system and can utilize resources from Grant and Riverside hospitals," Blackwell said. "It makes the program more interesting."

Ohio University student and resident Lauren Gutheil said she had no doubts about choosing Doctors Hospital for her medical education.

"I really am proud to come here," she said. "There are more opportunities at this hospital. The resources we have at our fingertips are endless."

Reichfield said the expanded emergency department and new medical education center ensure continued excellence at Doctors Hospital.

This year Doctors Hospital was named for the first time to the Thomson Reuters list of the 100 Top Hospitals in the United States. The ranking is based on mortality rates, patient satisfaction, and financial variables, to name a few.

"This isn't a beauty contest," Reichfield said. "This shows the community we are having great outcomes. We have all the services to meet the community needs."

Csmithwestside@aol.com