Community Care

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare opens a new hospital in Olive Branch.

photograph courtesy Methodist Hospital

From the moment the new Methodist hospital in Olive Branch, Mississippi, opened on August 26, 2013, CEO David Baytos knew that 15 years of hard work had paid off.

“Initially, we had predicted a volume of 25 to 30 emergency room patients a day,” he says. “From day one, we have been averaging more than 60 patients per day. Twenty-two percent of those are children. Prior to August 26, these individuals would have had to go outside their community to seek care.”

He and Facilities Manager Richard Kelley both say they have been thanked numerous times by north Mississippians for fulfilling a critical need in their community. “They didn’t have an emergency room here,” says Kelley, so Olive Branch residents with urgent health needs would have to burn up the highway to get to a hospital in Memphis.

“That’s horrible when your kid’s bleeding,” says Kelley.

Before the opening of the new facility, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare hospitals in the Memphis area admitted an annual average of 6,500 patients from the community and treated more than 50,000 on an outpatient basis. “We believe in family-centered care,” says Baytos. “By having the hospital here in the community where people are living, it’s much easier to provide care for the whole family.”

The 100-bed hospital is the first completely new construction that Methodist has undertaken this century. Starting from scratch meant that the company could create the most modern facility possible, and use their vast experience in the healthcare field to avoid the mistakes of the past, beginning with the 40-acres on which the facility was built. “We learned to buy larger lots to expand into so we don’t end up fighting for land,” says Kelley.

Serving one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation, the new hospital was designed by the architecture firm Gresham, Smith and Partners to be easily expanded, both in size and in technological capability. “When we designed our pharmacy and laboratory departments, we built them with the capacity to handle not just 100 beds, but 300 beds. In a typical hospital, as it expands, you might have to relocate those services because they need more space. But here, we won’t have to relocate one service in order to expand another one.”

 “A brand-new hospital gives you the opportunity to incorporate more up-to-date features that are difficult to add to an existing facility,” says Kelley. “We put into it all of the bells and whistles we could think of.”

The high-tech “bells and whistles” begin in the building’s bones. “We are one of two hospitals in the country to have a ground-source heat pump system,” Kelley says. On the north side of the site, 200 wells, 300 feet deep, were drilled to harness the natural thermal properties of the earth. A system of pipes circulate water, which is seven times more efficient than air as a thermal medium, to 200 heat pumps located around the hospital. This means the HVAC system doesn’t have to use as much energy to bring the air in the hospital to the desired temperature. “The heat pump cost about $500,000 more than if we had gone with a traditional HVAC system, but we’ll recoup that investment in about five years time by reducing our energy costs,” says Baytos.

Further helping to reduce the energy required to heat and cool the facility are the expansive windows in the lobby, which can change opacity automatically to keep the heat of the sun out in the summer time and let it in during the winter. The architects believe it will be the first LEED Healthcare Gold-certified hospital in the United States.

Also built into the bones of the facility is an advanced information technology system, an increasingly vital component in twenty-first-century medicine. “We are completely wireless, and we have mobile telemetry, so you can monitor a patient even from some far off corner of the hospital,” says Kelley. Staff movements can be monitored in great detail and analyzed to increase the efficiency of the patient care process.

The hospital’s layout was also designed with efficiency in mind. The second floor, which houses the operating rooms, intensive care unit, pharmacy, and laboratories, “dictated the footprint of the building, because you need all of these services close together to support each other,” says Kelley. On the ground floor, the frequently used emergency room and radiology departments are similarly situated to facilitate optimal traffic patterns for both patients and staff.

This is the third new hospital opening Baytos has worked on, and he says it has been the smoothest of his career. “One reason is, from the construction standpoint, utilizing our integrated product delivery approach to designing and constructing the hospital, probably reduced our overall costs by about 10 percent. We took what would have been a 22-month construction process and reduced it to 16 months. We were able to use the talent across our entire system to design the hospital to provide the most efficient, cost-effective care.” 


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