Christmas has come early at Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital & Medical Center.
The two Spokane hospitals have been unwrapping some of the $11.5 million in new equipment that's being bought this quarter by their new owner, Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems Inc.
CHS acquired most of the assets of Spokane nonprofit Empire Health Services in October for $156 million and has said it will make $100 million in capital improvements at Deaconess and Valley Hospital over the next five years, says Shelley Peterson, chief nursing officer at Deaconess.
Patient beds, imaging gear, patient monitors, surgical equipment, and patient-room furniture have been among the new equipment that's arrived so far, Peterson says.
She says that because of the buying power of publicly traded CHS, which owns 118 hospitals across the country, the new owner was able to obtain much of the equipment for half of what it would have cost Empire Health.
Last month, about 220 new patient beds were delivered to Deaconess in some 20 truckloads and were assembled on the hospital's10th floor, Peterson says.
"I went up there the day after delivery, and it looked like a bed factory," she says.
Once assembled, all of the beds were installed in the hospital's patient rooms in a single day.
"We moved 32 patients an hour and got them all done in eight hours," Peterson says.
Each bed includes a complex motorized system that can be adjusted with the touch of a finger, she says.
"Patients love the comfort, and the staff loves all the conveniences," Peterson says. "They can make the bed work as a chair that can actually be used as a lift to help a patient stand."
Each bed also is equipped with an alarm that alerts the nursing staff when patients who are at risk of a fall try to get out of bed, she says. They also have the ability to weigh patients, which is a big aid in monitoring fluid intake and retention, Peterson says.
Peterson says it's by far the most beds replaced at one time at Deaconess, which has 388 licensed beds.
"Some beds were 30 years old," she says. "We got behind on the rotation."
The hospital also is replacing 36 critical-care beds and 40 obstetric beds. The critical-care beds have more technology to aid in the care of acutely sick and injured patients, Peterson says. The obstetric beds can be reconfigured to aid in delivery during advancing stages of labor so mothers don't have to be moved from them.
The patient, critical-care, and obstetric beds at Deaconess cost a total of $2.3 million, she says.
CHS also bought 75 patient beds and 10 critical-care beds for Valley Hospital at a cost of $780,000, says Christine Varela, a spokeswoman for both hospitals.
Varela says the hospitals haven't determined yet what they will do with their old beds.
Meanwhile, Deaconess' neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has received 10 new state-of-the-art "isolettes," or specialized incubators that will replace older incubators there, some of which are more than 20 years old and for which it's hard to find replacement parts, says Ann Seaburg, NICU director.
The isolettes are for care of "micro-preemies," infants born as early as during the 25th week of gestation, who sometimes weigh a little as 1 pound, she says.
The isolettes, also called giraffe beds because their clear covers can raise up over the head of caregivers to allow access to the infant, provide control of humidity, airflow and temperature. The base height of an isolette also can be adjusted so the mother can view the infant from a hospital bed.
In an acquisition of yet another kind of specialty bed, CHS has bought 10 motorized emergency-room gurneys for each of the two hospitals. The gurneys can accommodate patients weighing up to 800 pounds, plus monitoring and treatment equipment, and are designed so that some procedures, such as X-ray imaging, can be done without removing the patient from the gurney, she says.
Among the new big-ticket items to arrive at Deaconess are cardiac imaging equipment for the hospital's catheter and electrophysiology lab, and digital X-ray equipment for its trauma unit.
Altogether, the new imaging equipment cost more than $2.5 million. Peterson describes the improvement in the trauma room X-ray images as a "four- or five-generation upgrade in digital quality that provides extremely sharp, crisp images that radiologists can read immediately."
In a $450,000 project, Valley Hospital also is getting upgraded radiology equipment, and its radiology room is being remodeled, Varela says.
CHS is replacing 210 patient monitors throughout Deaconess for patients who need continual monitoring. The monitors track heart function, respiration, and oxygen saturation. They wirelessly upload that information automatically, and it's entered on patients' electronic records, Peterson says.
The new owner also has bought 45 mobile vital-sign monitors for Deaconess, and 10 for Valley Hospital. Those monitors, which are about the size of a laptop computer, are carried by nurses as they do their rounds, Peterson says. Like the monitors that track patients continuously, vital sign monitors also wirelessly upload information, such as blood pressure, pulse, and temperature readings, for entry onto patients' electronic records, she says.
Other CHS purchases include $500,000 in new surgical equipment for orthopedic, neuro-, and urinary surgeries at Deaconess, and $150,000 in surgical equipment for Valley Hospital, Varela says.
CHS also is updating its medical documentation system at both hospitals, beginning with the installation of a total of about 900 desktop computers. The computer installations will be followed next year by upgrades to the documentation software.
"We had to get new computers first, because the old computers couldn't handle the updated software," Peterson says.
The medical documentation system is used by 40 hospitals throughout the Meditech network, she says. Deaconess and Valley were among the first Spokane-area hospitals to go online with the system in the 1990s, but the hardware and software at the hospital hasn't received any major upgrades since then, she says.
Also yet this year, all patient-care rooms at both hospitals will get new furniture, including patient chairs, nightstands, chairs and beds for visitors, and dining areas for families, at a cost of $1.3 million at Deaconess and $250,000 at Valley Hospital, Peterson adds.
The next round of capital spending will include additional work on upgrades to the electronic documentation systems at both hospitals, and a new call system at Deaconess, Varela says.
The hospitals also are developing strategic plans that will prioritize capital needs, she says.
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