Finishing touches delay MVH opening

Ralph Stewart

Islanders will have to wait a few more months for an inside look at the new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. A private reception for donors and a public open house planned for the weekend of February 7 have been postponed to April, while workers complete interior finish work.

That decision is tied to a delay in laying floor tiles caused by the choice of an environmentally friendly adhesive product. Rather than invite the public to tour a building with some of the floors closed off, it was decided to wait until the building was completed.

Last week, the hospital began contacting donors to whom it had sent invitations. “I will admit, when the problem first presented itself we wrestled with the decision a little bit,” Tim Sweet, hospital board vice chairman, said. “But it just boiled down to a question of staying true to the commitment of a green hospital versus the embarrassment of putting off our opening by 60 days. In the end it was a no brainer.”

The hospital is using an environmentally friendly tile adhesive that is more sensitive to humidity than traditional adhesives. Tiles could not be affixed until the moisture level in the concrete floors reached a designated point, a target that proved to be problematic.

One solution presented was to seal the concrete, which added a cost. In the end, it was decided to seal the second floor so work could proceed and wait for the first floor to dry. The schedule was set back about six weeks in the process.

Mr. Sweet said that taken as a whole, the hospital project has been very smooth and remains on budget. To have a 60-day delay at the end is an embarrassing snag, but not shattering. “Honestly, this has been a terrific construction project,” he said. “We have been on time and on budget for the entire process and we are feeling very proud of ourselves for doing such.”

The private reception for the donors who funded the project, which was built without tax dollars, and the public open house and ribbon cutting is now scheduled for the weekend of April 10. The actual operational opening is still to be determined, but it is expected soon after the open house.

It is not simply a case of opening the doors.

Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, said that before the hospital can begin to receive patients all of the staff must be familiar with the building and the equipment. That process of familiarization will require clinical drills, including a mock operation in the surgical suite. “We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable,” he said.

For now, workmen are busy laying tiles and installing equipment. New equipment, including a $1.1 million CAT scanner, has been installed in the radiology suite and is connected electronically to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

“There’s still a lot going on,” Mr. Walsh said.

New era

In 2006 the private nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Hospital became an affiliate of MGH and its parent organization, Partners HealthCare System. The partnership has provided access to a great deal of specialized expertise in a number of hospital fields.

The physical layout of the building is designed to increase staff efficiency, patient comfort, and privacy, and it is based on a patient-centered health-care system known as the Planetree Model.

The main hospital entrance opens to an airy foyer. There are separate entrances for the emergency department for walk-in patients and those who arrive by ambulance.

The first floor houses the surgery, radiology, and emergency departments, a laboratory, and the admitting area. The second floor includes three labor and delivery rooms and 25 private patient rooms.

An electronic medical records system designed by Partners for all its member hospitals is now in use.

The actual physical move when it occurs will be limited. Mr. Walsh said much of the equipment throughout the hospital would be new. “Because we’ve been anticipating the move, we held off on replacing equipment as best we could,” he said.

For now, a plain wooden door adjacent to the cafeteria provides entrance for construction workers and hospital officials to a corridor that connects the old hospital, which opened in 1974, to the new hospital building. It is a short walk to a new era in Island medical care, one that incorporates new technology and standards for patient care and privacy.

During a brief tour Friday of ongoing work, Mr. Walsh described some of the new building’s features and challenges.

Clinical treatment rooms feature a large blue button on the wall that hospital personnel can push in the event of a medical emergency, termed a “code blue,” to summon members of a special team. Now, when a code blue occurs, the alarm is placed using the phone.

The new emergency department features 16 treatment rooms where patients will have a degree of privacy not now afforded by the curtains used to separate patients in the current emergency room.

In one treatment room heavy bolts protruded from the ceiling. Mr. Walsh said the bolts would be used to secure a high intensity light fixture. The very costly fixture and the specialized engineering needed to secure it were part of the costs that are not always apparent, he said.

The new ER department provides a degree of dedicated space not now possible. EMTs will have a small work area with a desk where they can complete paperwork out of the mainstream of ER activity. There is a separate “bereavement” room where medical staff can talk to family members. There is a separate holding room for patients who present the risk of harm to others.

“We have nothing like that now,” Mr. Walsh said.

Observation rooms will allow staff to monitor patients while waiting for the results of medical tests. “The idea is not to tie up trauma rooms,” he said.

The new operating rooms will feature a camera system and monitor that will allow instant communication with MGH surgeons who will be able to observe and communicate directly with Island surgeons.

A visitor who compares the new building to the old building will come to the immediate conclusion that there is a great deal of space. Mr. Walsh said it is a common reaction, but much of the interior design was dictated by Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) hospital codes.

For example, DPH regulations called for nine postoperative rooms for each operating room, far more than what would be needed on the Vineyard under normal circumstances where the rooms are not used every day. The hospital received a waiver under which it was allowed to drop the required number from 16 to nine.

Regulations require a staff lounge and locker room for each hospital department. “You know how many one and two-person departments I have?” Mr. Walsh said. “But we worked our way through it.”