The 108-bed Blue Tower West, the second building in Kennestone’s Tom & Betty Phillips Tower complex, will not add to the hospital’s 633-bed capacity, but it is designed to give more patients private rooms.
With the $48 million addition, Kennestone now has only 51 “semi private” rooms, in which patients may double-up in “surge” situations, such as the recent flu outbreak.
Janie Maddox, chairwoman of the WellStar Board of Trustees, said private rooms at the hospital have been a priority for the board.
“The community has asked that we make our regional medical center all private rooms,” Maddox said. “This has been in the works for several years. … We’re not quite to where we have all private rooms, but it gets us that much closer.”
In addition to privacy, the building allows the rooms to be grouped together by patient need.
Ana-Elis Perry, the hospital’s operations manager, said each of the tower’s seven floors will be dedicated to specific patient groups. For example, the lowest, or “main floor” is set aside for all cancer patients, with a new bridge connecting the floor to WellStar’s radiation and oncology center.
Each floor will also be staffed by doctors and nurses who work in that field, Perry said.
“Everyone is kind of right here in the area where they can talk about it in one setting,” she said.
Dr. Michael Andrews, Kennestone’s chief cancer officer, said the new patient rooms will allow all inpatient and outpatient cancer services to be located close together.
“We are trying to get the right patients in the right places with the right nurses who are specialized in what the patient has,” he said.
The rooms in Blue Tower West, which has 130,000 square feet of floor space, are nearly twice the size of others in the hospital. A new oncology room is 400 square feet, compared to 240 square feet for one of the older ones. Each new room also features built-in equipment such as scanners that read patient information from identification bracelets.
The rooms also have bathrooms with no thresholds at the door or at the shower entrance, making for seamless travel for patients hauling intravenous devices.
“They can just roll the pole right in,” Perry said.
Rooms also feature desks and sofas that fold into beds, designed for overnight stays for family members.
Although WellStar did not plan to move patients until Friday, some were moved Tuesday because of high occupancy at the hospital.
Denice Ann Marek, who lives near Town Center Mall, enjoyed being one of the 400 patients who are moving into new rooms this weekend.
“I had no complaints with the other rooms. They were just a little smaller,” said Marek, 56, who suffers from stage 4 ovarian cancer, after coming over from the Green Tower Friday morning. “But there’s more privacy here. You can have discussions with doctors, nurses and your family. It’s so clean; words cannot explain how I feel about being here.”
Blue Tower East opened in 2006. The new tower has been planned since then, with construction starting in August 2011.
Candice Saunders, president of the newly named WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center, said WellStar learns from each building it constructs.
“It’s like building a house,” Saunders said. “Once you build a house, you feel like you should have done this or you should have done that, and you use that in the next project.”