WEST CHESTER — A $300 million expansion project at the Chester County Hospital opens Monday with new technology that puts it at the forefront of some of the premier hospitals in the nation.
By late spring, Chester County Hospital will be the largest in Chester County, with 301 licensed beds. The quarter-million square-foot expansion will include 15 modern operating room suites, new areas for non-invasive cardiology, 99 private inpatient rooms, a 700-car parking garage, an outpatient pharmacy offering over-the counter medications and prescription pick up and refills, a bistro, and even a rooftop helipad.
And by the end of next year, a 26,000-square-foot expansion and renovation of the hospital’s Emergency Department will be completed, with enhanced security features and specialized exam rooms.
The hospital, which now has the flexibility to become a trauma center, now employs more than 2,500 and has a volunteer staff of 400.
The expansion project is sorely needed, allowing a move out of a wing built 60 years ago, said Michael Duncan, president and CEO of Chester County Hospital, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
“Right now, we run our operating rooms from 7 in the morning to 9 at night, and with 10 rooms,” Duncan said. “Now we will have 15 additional OR’s, including 3 new Cardiac Catheterization and Electrophysiology Labs, plus additional post-procedure recovery bays (27) and private prep/recovery rooms. We built this because of our increasing demand for surgical space. We need more operating rooms, more inpatient bays, more places for people to recover.”
Currently, the hospital uses 10 operating rooms, three of which were built in 1925, with the smallest being 295 square feet. Now, the operating room footprint not only more than doubles, but it comes with all the latest technology, including high-tech robotics.
In the past five years, Chester County Hospital has seen cardiac catheterizations increase 9 percent, open heart surgeries increase 29 percent and orthopedic surgeries increase 16 percent. And hospital staff delivers two out of three babies born in Chester County. Couple that with the fact that Chester County is the fastest-growing county in the region and is expected to add more than 146,000 new residents by 2045, according to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
To plan for the future, Duncan said, is to accommodate anticipated growth. With the senior citizen population in Chester County growing at an annual rate of nearly 4 percent, the hospital needs all the latest technologies in managing heart disease, cancer and orthopedic disorders, Duncan said.
The expansion matches the current Italian Renaissance stucco exterior with red terra cotta roof that dates back to 1925, when the facility had 145 beds.
The hospital, ranked the sixth best hospital in the Philadelphia Metro region and 12th best in Pennsylvania. according to U.S. News & World Report, could rank even higher after the expansion, Duncan believes.
“Last year we were named the highest quality community hospital in the United States by one organization and the highest patient satisfaction hospital in the United States by another organization, and now we will have a facility that lets all of that blossom,” Duncan said.
Duncan gave credit to the hospital’s high quality scores to its nurses, doctors and surgeons. Generally, there is one nurse per four patients, and one nurse per two patients in the Intensive Care Unit.
“You can cut expenses when you don’t have as many nurses, but you certainly can’t achieve the level of quality we get,” Duncan said. “You can’t get (the awards) unless you have great nurses.”
On Monday, the temporary hospital entrance at the crossing of East Marshall Street and Convent Lane relocates to the new main entrance at the intersection of East Marshall Street and Montgomery Avenue. The entry court, which will host the hospital’s free valet service, is directly across from the parking garage. Up-to-date parking and wayfinding information can be found on the hospital’s website and patients and visitors can rely on the signage on East Marshall Street to direct them.
From the entry court, patients and family members will have access not only to the new pavilion but also to all areas of the existing hospital. Those in need of emergency care should continue to use the Emergency Department entrance and dedicated lots along East Marshall Street. Those reporting for a procedure will still go to the Ambulatory Care Center located at the east entrance, until the new procedural suite is fully operational later this spring.
At the hospital’s new main entrance will be a reception desk with a security officer, Red Coat ambassadors and an information desk volunteer to help patients and visitors navigate their way around campus. The Knauer Family Lobby has lots of natural light and comfortable seating with cushions. Just to the right of the reception desk is the Abbott Family Courtyard, a glass-enclosed, open-air outdoor space featuring trees, greenery, tables and chairs.
Adjacent to the lobby is the new pre-procedure testing area, which offers heart and vascular screening, pulmonary function testing, and other tests that may be needed before surgery or other medical procedures. Also on this floor is the Women’s Auxiliary Gift Shop and the Chester County Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy, where all community members – not just hospital patients – can have prescriptions filled. There is also a Bistro serving Starbucks coffee, other drinks, and prepackaged sandwiches and snacks.
Initially, surgeries will continue to take place in the existing hospital as the new pavilion will open in phases throughout late spring.
Comparing the new operating rooms at Chester County Hospital to ones used just a couple of decades ago is like comparing a rotary telephone to today's smartphone. The technology difference is light years ahead.
The $300 million expansion of the Chester County Hospital adds 15 operating rooms - five for cardiovascular procedures – which includes three high-tech labs for catheterization and electrophysiology, five for orthopedic procedures and five for robotics and general surgery.
The imaging technology has different capabilities. Doctors performing procedures can watch real-time images of the body on 75-inch monitors, and help determine which technology works best.
Although image-guided surgeries are common (magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices have long been used by doctors to help view internal areas of the body while performing complicated surgeries), never before have all the most advanced imaging devices been available in one operating room.
"And all of the equipment is tied to the ceiling," said Michael Duncan, president and CEO of Chester County Hospital. "It's easier to walk around, and there are no cables or equipment crowding the floor space."
No longer do surgeons have to manually move their patient. It's done by robotics in the new operating rooms.
The operating rooms, laboratory and pathology department are now equipped with the BDV IDSS Operating Room Integration System. This technology allows providers to have up to 32 imaging devices and 32 display destinations for high-definition viewing, capturing and recording. The system will also connect teams within and beyond the OR for robust, real-time collaboration, communication, and education.
It means that the surgeon's real-time work is not only displayed on the big screen in the operating room, but also on a screen for professionals in the Penn Medicine system to collaborate instantly.
"It's all connected," Duncan said. "There is no delay. It's quite impressive."
The Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where the sickest patients go, also gets the same high-tech advancements.
"We are all on the same electronic medical record," Duncan said. "Whatever the ICU sees can be seen downtown. If they need consultation from an expert, physicians can look at the same record and images and can communicate with each other."
The average nurse to patient ratio in the ICU is one nurse for every two patients, unlike the rest of the hospital which utilizes one nurse for every four patients.
Also new at the ICU, which is located just above the operating rooms, is a large 75-inch monitor in the patient's room. About two-thirds of the screen is for television, while the rest of the screen displays clinical information about the patient.
"We are the first in the Health System to install this kind of technology in rooms," Duncan said. "This is the latest and the greatest."
But all of the new technology, Duncan said, pales in comparison to the hospital's staff.
"The biggest tech we have in our ICU are the great nurses, who are technically trained and are totally focused on the patient."
Surgeons, Duncan said, have been trained to use all the new imaging technology.
Emergency care for infants also gets attention. Chester County Hospital has the highest level ranked level Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the county, as awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The Moore Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can accommodate up to 15 infants and manages the care of premature or full-term babies who have special medical concerns. It is led by a team of Neonatologists from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on staff at the hospital.
"We need more labor and delivery rooms because we deliver two-thirds of the babies in Chester County," Duncan said. "We will move pediatrics into one of the refurbished wings we are moving into the patient tower, when we get to that point, and then we will expand labor and delivery."
Those who come in for procedures -- inpatient or outpatient -- will find the process has improved greatly. When waiting, there are patient tracking boards so family members can see where their loved one is in the surgical process. A simple text message can also alert them when the procedure is complete. And while they are waiting, they can look out at nature due to all of the natural light.
Navigation too, has improved.
The hospital’s main entrance has been relocated to the intersection of East Marshall Street and Montgomery Avenue, by the existing parking garage. Patients may continue to self-park in or around the garage and valet parking is available for all patients, visitors and community members. All parking options are free.
"Everything is together," Duncan said. "There's a U-shaped driveway, so patients can be dropped off at the entrance, check-in and have their procedure, and then discharged right back out at the same driveway. Wayfinding is dramatically better."