Soldotna hospital explores remodeling

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2003

Central Peninsula General Hospital officials are eying a remodeling project that will address space needs identified in the past six months by hospital employees and administrators.

Since the hospital's business offices moved into an approximately 2,800-square foot space in the Mundell Building on Binkley Street, next to the site of the new Soldotna Pharmacy, there is room to rearrange certain parts of the hospital, providing room for more clinical space.

The remodeling project would be a short-term solution to alleviate spacing pressure until a proposed $46 million hospital expansion can be approved. The plan calls for an ordinance that would go before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in March to seek approval of $389,800 from the 2003 hospital service area capital budget.

But first it must be approved by the hospital service area board, elected officials who oversee money spent against the borough mill levy.

Hospital CEO David Gilbreath said the proposed remodel would address specific needs now lacking in the hospital's configuration.

He said primary in those needs is adherence to federal privacy standards dictated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which among other things addresses the security and privacy of health data.

One way this could be accomplished is by moving the admissions office to allow for more space for the adjacent laboratory and radiology departments. By opening up these two departments, Gilbreath said there would be more room for records storage and space to separate common areas from a mammography room where privacy is needed.

He pointed to other places where a change could bring significant improvement to patient privacy.

"Our physical therapy room is on one end of the hospital and patient rooms are on a completely different end," Gilbreath said. "A patient in for knee surgery would need to be wheeled through (general) hospital traffic and past the admissions to get to physical therapy.

"The sleep study clinic and its oversight offices will come closer, and we want to move the waiting room so it's closer to surgery. Now, a patient's loved ones are waiting on one end of the building knowing (doctors are) cutting on the patient at the other end."

He said the remodel also would improve patient and staff flow and promote better use of clinical space.

"The work load has gone up, but our size has not increased," Gilbreath said.

One of the foreseeable down sides of the remodeling project, however, would be a possible loss of one of the in-patient rooms. This wrinkle raised some concern among hospital officials and members of the CPGH Inc. board, the governing body of the nonprofit organization that manages the borough-owned hospital.

"I'm all for moving physical therapy," said acting hospital chief of staff, Dr. Henry Krull at the Jan. 30 board meeting. "But I'm not willing to give up a patient room."

The hospital has 38 acute care, or short-term, beds with the capacity to flex up to 44.

A recent survey of hospital staff produced a laundry list of needs related to facility spacing. Board president Diana Zirul said she had confidence this information that deemed the remodeling project feasible, and said the data was more accurate than previous information.

Board member Ken Meacham expressed concern about how the hospital's customers might respond to losing a room.

"There was some concern among the public last spring that we were expanding, but not adding patient rooms," Meacham said. "I trust the data, too, but what are the people of the community going to believe?"

Gilbreath said should the changes have a significant impact on the hospital's patient room count, adjustments could be made.

"If we find that this is a wrong decision, we can correct it with minimal expense," he said. "I want the beds full and I want them to be available when patients need them."

Eight board members unanimously approved the board resolution. Board member Tom Boedeker was absent from the meeting and a 10th board seat is vacant.

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