Friday, March 16, 2012

Einstein’s East Norriton hospital set for Sept. debut

The Einstein Healthcare Network’s new $365 million hospital is on schedule for a September debut. The health system is so confident in that timeline it is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the opening on its website.

“Everything will be brand spanking new,” said Richard Montalbano, an Einstein vice president and project executive, during a tour last week of the central Montgomery County hospital. “The technology here will be extraordinary. Every aspect of the digital hospital is incorporated in the project, and all the technology talks to each other. All that information will be immediately [and securely] available to multiple users at multiple locations.”

Einstein, based in Philadelphia, is building on a 82-acre property in East Norriton off Germantown Pike north of Route 202 that previously housed Wood’s Golf Center — known locally as Woody’s.

The project started as part of a joint venture forged about five years ago between Einstein and Montgomery Hospital and Medical Center in Norristown. The medical center is being built for the aging and largely landlocked Montgomery Hospital Medical Center Montgomery Hospital Medical Center Latest from The Business Journals Follow this company , which joined the Einstein network last year.

In addition to the 363,000-square-foot hospital, a separate 75,000-square-foot medical office building at the site is being developed by Einstein in a partnership with Chicago-based Alter Care.

The new medical center will feature an array of advanced services and facilities including 24-hour emergency care; cancer care; open-heart surgery, cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories; and robotic, minimally invasive, endovascular, thoracic, cardiothoracic, breast, colorectal and bariatric surgery.

Among the hospital’s features, Montalbano said, will be all private rooms (146 to start but with the capacity to grow to 218) with views of a sprawling farm across Germantown Pike. In additional to 96 medical/surgical beds, the hospital will have a 22-bed critical-care unit, a 20-bed obstetrical unit with six labor/delivery/recovery rooms and 16 well-baby bassinets and an eight-bed Level III neonatal intensive-care unit.

The medical/surgical rooms will be divided into zones for caregivers, patients and families, he said, adding every room will have a sofa that converts into a bed.

The rooms are also designed with small windows that will allow doors to be closed at night to minimize noise, while still giving nurses a way to check on patients. In addition, all the rooms were equipped with patient lifts — at a cost of $1 million — to reduce injuries incurred by caregivers when moving patients.

“Everything is designed to minimize patient movement,” Montalbano said. “The idea is to bring the therapy to the patients in the private rooms, rather than move the patients to the therapy. Next to the emergency room, we have a dedicated elevator that connects directly to the operating rooms.”

Montalbano said the hospital is also designed to make it easy for visitors to get around. “There’s only two doors into the place [excluding emergency room entrances],” he said.

It will feature an atrium with plentiful sunlight. “We didn’t want this to look like a traditional hospital,” Montalbano said.

Upon opening, the hospital will be the third replacement hospital in the Philadelphia region in the past two years. In 2011, Virtua opened a $463 million, 368-bed replacement hospital in Voorhees. Later in the year, Capital Health System opened a $540 million, 237-bed hospital in Hopewell, N.J., to replace another hospital in Trenton.

In the five-county Philadelphia area, the most recent replacement hospital to open was St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in 1990. A specialty surgical hospital opened in Bensalem in 2009, then changed hands and is now operated as the Rothman Specialty Hospital, and in Royersford, Physicians Care Surgical Hospital opened in 2010.

Einstein is financing the project largely through $309.4 million of Federal Housing Administration mortgage revenue bonds.
Last month, Fitch Ratings analyst Michael Burger downgraded the rating on $133 million in other bonds issued for Einstein by the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority’ to BBB+ from A-. But he raised his rating outlook for Einstein to stable from negative.

Burger said the downgrade reflects declines in profitability and liquidity at Einstein, noting the health system’s operating margin dropped to a negative 1.7 percent during the last six months of 2011. He did say he viewed favorably the opening of the new hospital in East Norriton, saying it should help Einstein grow market share in a better payor mix environment, which will allow it to continue serving its “current challenged service area” in North and Northeast Philadelphia.

Einstein experienced some local opposition to the project, which Montalbano said is understandable given hospitals are always open and have late-night shift changes and emergency vehicles arriving at all hours. He said the health system worked to minimize the impact. In addition, he noted, the fees the health system are paying are being used to fund improvements to the township including widening Germantown Pike from two lanes to five.

“And I have no doubt this facility will save lives of members of this community,” he said.
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