What's Going on at all the New Hospitals?

The excitement in Kevin Rogols’ voice was obvious as he stepped inside the metro area’s newest hospital, talking about how natural light improves the healing process. Whether or not that’s true for everyone, there was no denying that the sun’s rays shone graciously through the windows in the lobby at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center on that particular afternoon.

It was two days before SRMC opened to the public and Rogols, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, was conducting a tour of the 200,000-square-foot, 72-bed acute care facility, located in Rio Rancho’s City Center along Paseo del Volcan near Unser Boulevard. He was eager to show off the goods inside.

SRMC is one two full-service hospitals that have opened in the state’s fastest-growing city in the past year. The other, Rust Medical Center, owned and operated by Presbyterian Health Services, began accepting patients in October 2011. There have also been a few noteworthy renovations done at Lovelace Westside Hospital in Albuquerque’s Westside, which also experienced rapid population growth in the past decade.

This hospital building boom – along with other changes at the area’s more established hospitals — is producing a significant alteration to the landscape of health care in the metro area. For instance, gone are the days when Westside and Rio Rancho residents made the tedious trek into downtown Albuquerque for an emergency room visit, to deliver a baby or to have surgery done.

Presbyterian Rust Medical Center
A recent addition of a fifth floor at Rust Medical Center, located at 2400 Unser Blvd. SE in Rio Rancho, boosted the bed total to 92 at the facility. The expansion was greatly needed. More than 600 babies have been born and the emergency room has seen more than 16,000 patients since the hospital opened 10 months ago.
Construction of the hospital took a little more than two years at a cost of about $165 million, of which $140 million was raised through long-term debt, capital reserves and projected operating surpluses. The donation by the recently deceased Jack Rust and his wife Donna Rust – for whom the hospital is named – was part of a $25 million effort to raise money from the community. The hospital currently employs roughly 400 people.

Rust Medical Center offers the same services one would find at Presbyterian Medical Center in downtown Albuquerque, and most of what is offered at Rust is offered at Presbyterian Medical Center. But compared to Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital, a 170-bed facility in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, Rust Medical Center offers more services, such as a neonatal intensive care unit, an intensive care unit and a majority of beds set aside for progressive care.

In the progressive care unit, patients are guaranteed a private room with a family area that has a sofa, desk and wireless Internet. In the ICU, patient rooms are similar to those in progressive care. But since the hospital has only six intensivists on staff, Rust Medical Center contracts with Advanced ICU Care to use their staff intensivists for video teleconferencing in the ICU rooms. These intensivists are available 24 hours a day.

There are also private rooms for newborns, rather than one large room with a display gallery. The expansion of the fifth floor also increased the maternity area. In addition, the hospital has the only neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) on the Westside.

Lovelace Westside Hospital
Lovelace Westside Hospital has changed significantly since the days when it was known as St. Joseph West Mesa Hospital. Ardent Health Systems of Nashville, Tenn., purchased both St. Joseph and Lovelace health systems in 2003 and merged them under the Lovelace banner.

In 2011, the 80-bed Lovelace Westside Hospital opened a new birthing center, bringing such services to the Westside and Rio Rancho for the first time in 14 years. The center is equipped with nine private delivery recovery and postpartum rooms. The unit also includes 24-hour anesthesiology coverage, an OB surgical unit for Caesarian sections and a lactation program.

In March, the hospital — located near Albuquerque’s border with Rio Rancho at 10501 Golf Course Road NW — opened an inpatient pediatric unit. The eight-bed, five-room unit is now the only inpatient pediatric care facility serving the area. The unit includes two private rooms, assigned depending on diagnosis (an example of this would be babies at risk, or children in critical condition). Each room is equipped with a video-game console, and the Rio Rancho Rotary Club donated $2,000 for toys for the unit’s common playroom.

This is also the only pediatric in patient unit within the Lovelace Health System. After looking at the demographics of the Westside (where many families with children live), it was a natural fit to put an inpatient pediatric unit at Lovelace Westside Hospital, said Troy Greer, former chief executive officer of Lovelace Westside and current CEO of Lovelace Medical Center downtown.

Additionally, Lovelace Westside Hospital boasts a 24-hour emergency department. Services at the hospital include a 64-slice CT scanner, digital mammography and new MRI equipment.


UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center
Having a vent directly above an operating table that sucks dust away might seem irrelevant – and maybe even superfluous – but it’s a pretty important piece of equipment when you’re trying to keep a patient free from infections.

That was how Rogols explained the need for the laminar air-filtering system inside one of the six operating rooms, one of the features at SRMC.

Another feature are the sinks, which are deeper than normal sinks so water won’t splash and increase the chance of infections.

And then there are the patient beds, programmed to speak a limited amount of commands and phrases in more than 200 languages. “Communication is key in medicine,” Rogols said. “We have translation services internally, but there are several points of communication that are pretty common.”

Common phrases and commands from the bed include “I am your nurse,” “this is what this is for” and “squeeze my hand.”

“Especially for someone who is on sedation, on pain medications or who isn’t aware of their surroundings, this can help soothe them,” added Rogols. “Even if it’s not a familiar person, at least it’s a familiar language.”

The medical center will be a teaching hospital, working closely with the UNM School of Medicine, UNM College of Nursing, UNM College of Pharmacy and Central New Mexico Community College.

The medical center has a total of 72 inpatient beds comprised of two 24-hour medical/surgical units, 12 intensive care beds, 12 geriatric behavioral health beds and 13 emergency medicine beds, two of which are equipped for behavioral health crisis intervention.

The hospital uses 64- and 128-slice CAT scans, as well as 3-tesla MRIs, all of which use low-dose technology, said Rogols.

Lovelace Natural Birthing Center
A natural birthing center is now open at Lovelace Women’s Hospital in the Northeast Heights at 4701 Montgomery Blvd. NE. This new unit features the state’s only chance for an expectant mother to have a natural birth — the absence of anesthetics, in which the expectant mom is given special breathing and relaxing exercises — inside a full-service hospital, with the security of a hospital medical staff close by. Amenities in the natural birthing center rooms include queen size beds, birthing tubs (for water births) and fireplaces.

Lovelace Women’s Hospital also features a 53-bed Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with 24-hour observation, a 24-hour emergency department, 16 labor and delivery rooms, a 41-bed mother-baby unit, and a maternal-fetal medicine program for high-risk pregnancies.

In the Planning Stages
Having just completed its Sandoval County complex, UNM will begin construction this fall on a $146 million, 185,000-square-foot adult-care hospital at Lomas Boulevard and Interstate 25. UNM officials said the goal is to have the six-story, 96-bed hospital open by July 2014.

The new hospital will include radiology and lab services, a pharmacy, respiratory therapy and short- and long-term acute care.

In just a short period of time, our local medical service providers have expanded to meet the health care needs of a growing metro area.

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