Long-awaited Methodist West opens Oct. 26
Saturday, October 10, 2009 7:00 AM
Foundation expects to raise $5 million for new hospital
As it nears the end of its capital campaign for Methodist West Hospital, the Iowa Health Foundation hopes to have $5 million in commitments by the end of the year, said Dennis Linderbaum, the foundation's president.
"We've had a very good response from the community, despite the economy," Linderbaum said. "That's far from the original goal when we had the naming gift from the Myers Foundation, but that's ancient history."
When plans for the hospital were initially announced, the family of the late Michael Myers had committed $15 million as a naming gift for the hospital. However, following the collapse of Regency Homes and related Myers businesses, the Iowa Health Foundation released the family foundation from that commitment.
"We do have a couple of verbal requests at this point we think will be in the $500,000 to $1 million level," Linderbaum said. "Those take time. There has been no decision yet. And there are a handful of other pending proposals that may be in the $500,000 to $1 million range."
Each donor who contributed $15,000 or more was provided with a naming opportunity for an area of the hospital, such as patient rooms or waiting areas. Approximately 140 gifts qualified for naming opportunities, though some donors chose to remain anonymous, Linderbaum said. The names of all donors who gave $5,000 or more will be recognized on a donor wall in the hospital.
For more than 85 percent of donors, their gift to Methodist West was the largest they had ever given to Iowa Health, Linderbaum said.
"To me that sends the message that our friends, our donors, think this is a very worthwhile project," he said. "It's very gratifying."
When Eric Crowell shows visitors the nearly completed Methodist West Hospital, he's quick to point out another important asset: the spacious 49-acre campus that will enable the hospital to eventually double in size.
"A hospital is a long-run venture," said Crowell, president and CEO of Iowa Health - Des Moines, which will operate the new 95-bed hospital at 1660 60th St. in West Des Moines. "So we wanted to make sure that we had enough land to develop when you're looking 50 to 100 years out."
When it opens on Oct. 26, Methodist West will become West Des Moines' second community hospital, following closely on the heels of Mercy Medical Center - West Lakes, which opened on Sept. 8. An open house is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 18.
With an around-the-clock emergency department, maternity services, surgical suites and a critical-care unit, the 230,000-square-foot full-service hospital will provide competition for Mercy West Lakes as well as a closer alternative for suburban residents. The new facility will also offer full imaging services with CT scans, X-rays and MRIs as well as a cardiac catheterization lab.
And once the new hospital opens, the additional inpatient space will enable Iowa Health to begin offering all private patient rooms at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Crowell said.
Methodist West also will serve as a new orthopedic center of excellence for Iowa Health, with four of its six surgical suites and a 34-bed unit dedicated to total-joint-replacement cases, said Chris Blair, the hospital's chief clinical officer.
"We are working with Des Moines Orthopaedic Surgeons (P.C.) on setting up our medical model and processes to be really efficient and patient-centered, so that patients feel they're really well educated for their total joint surgeries," she said. "And eventually we'll be doing spine surgeries here."
Before the hospital opens, volunteers will play the part of patients as the staff participates in a three-day "dress rehearsal," designed primarily to test the facility's built-in technology, Blair said.
"They will come in with a made-up diagnosis," she said. "We'll make sure that if this computer is supposed to print to that printer, it does, that the phone rings where it's supposed to ring, and find out the bugs we need to sort out before we open."
Though the Iowa Department of Public Health licensed Methodist West for 95 beds, it will open with 83 available beds, as part of an agreement with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The Des Moines-based health insurance company led an earlier successful effort to block the hospital from receiving state certification, saying that having two hospitals in West Des Moines was duplicative and would lead to higher health-care costs.
Under an agreement reached two years ago with Wellmark, Iowa Health will accept a lower payment rate from the insurer for services provided at the new hospital during the next 10 years, and will open with a smaller number of beds until it can show additional capacity is needed.
But those beds will feature some of the latest technology in the health-care industry. For instance, at the foot of each bed is a built-in monitor that can remind nurses of medication schedules and other treatment details. And with a push of a button, a nurse can instantly weigh the patient while he or she is still in the bed.
A lower-tech feature, though one both patients and nurses will appreciate, Blair said, is an improved over-the-bed table with separate cupholders built onto the side to minimize spills.
Also new for Methodist West is a built-in nurse-paging system called Responder 5, with wall consoles located just inside each patient room. The system complements a design in which the nursing stations are located in hallway alcoves between the rooms, one for every two rooms, rather than having a central station for an entire floor.
Using the paging system, a physician who is beginning to make patient rounds can send a text message to the correct nurse for that room, ensuring that the nurse is quickly available, Blair said.
"This is something we hope we can use back downtown (at Iowa Lutheran Hospital and Iowa Methodist) to make life easier for physicians and caregivers," she said. "If we can keep the caregivers from running around trying to find each other or supplies or equipment, they can stay close to the patients, and that's a win-win for everybody. Our processes, equipment and technology really help point us toward that."
Similarly, each room has a communication board posted on the wall near the patient's bed to organize care notes, from medication times to a "what's important to me" space in which the nurse records the patient's requests. The boards, already used at the downtown hospitals, have been improved to make them more user-friendly, Blair said.
"That's the philosophy of constant process improvement," said Sid Ramsey, Iowa Health's vice president for marketing and business development. "The ideas that we've implemented downtown at Iowa Methodist, Lutheran and Blank (Children's Hospital), we bring forward. We're absolutely convinced that some of the innovations that the teams are employing out here, as we implement and evaluate them, then we'll begin to migrate those downtown. So we think we've got a great road map for really elevating patient care to the next level."
A moving target
About 170 new staff, primarily groundskeeping, security, kitchen and other support personnel, were hired for the new hospital, which will eventually employ about 550 people. Iowa Health uses a flexible staffing model, meaning staff will shift from its existing hospitals as the number of patients grows at Methodist West.
"It's still a moving target for how many staff we're going to have, because it will gradually build up," Blair said. "We've done a really aggressive job downtown of managing staff and not replacing to help manage the budget." The new hires represent only about a 3 percent increase in Iowa Health - Des Moines' work force.
The economic downturn of the past 18 months worked to Iowa Health's advantage in meeting its $118.5 million budget for the project, Ramsey said.
"Because we were building at a time when the economy was slowing down, interest rates were rock-bottom and that saved us money," said Ramsey, who said the project came in right on budget. "And in terms of the price of materials, we got great prices on equipment and materials," he said.
"I think the other advantage for the community is that of the $74 million in construction costs, about half that was labor," Ramsey said, with all of the contractors and subcontractors local companies.
Once the new hospital opens, it should ramp up fairly quickly, Ramsey said.
"I think within six months we should be pretty much running at projection, which is near capacity."