The recent completion of improvements to surgical facilities at Northwest Hospital is a testament to the hospital’s commitment to providing top-notch service as well as the constancy of its surgical teams, whose flexibility enabled the hospital to continue providing outstanding operative care amid the renovations.
The hospital staff recently celebrated the finalization of a three-year operating room renovation project—which remained on schedule and within budget—and subsequent upgrades to the hospital’s SurgiCenter. Before work got underway, feedback for the layout plans was solicited from surgical services personnel. The upgrades were necessitated by an increased volume of procedures.
“Surgeons and patients new to our facility are frequently blown away by the high quality, efficient, patient-friendly service. Our perioperative team is remarkable; their clinical expertise, patient-centered approach and passion are the heartbeat of our department,” said Sepi Gharanfoli, assistant vice president of clinical programs and performance and director of surgical and pulmonary services at Northwest Hospital.
The OR renovations, which began in the summer of 2013, involved expanding all five operating rooms in the main suite from 400 square feet to 600 square feet (a 50 percent increase per room) and installing state-of-the-art equipment like a new integration system with enhanced imaging capabilities that can help improve minimally invasive procedures. Additionally, a new chiller and air handler were installed at the main suite.
“The capital improvements team’s leadership throughout the project was amazing. This project stayed on track, mostly on time and within budget. That, as well as the team’s successful collaboration with the surgical services department, is something to be recognized,” said Kelly Corbi, chief operating officer at Northwest Hospital. “Sepi and her entire leadership team did an outstanding job maneuvering, communicating and managing all the changes. We are very proud to have state-of-the-art surgical facilities at Northwest Hospital and we have outstanding quality and service to match.”
Gharanfoli says the extra space in the operating rooms is ideal for large devices like the da Vinci robotic surgical system, which is controlled by a surgeon from a console that translates hand movements into smaller, more precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body.
“The da Vinci robot requires a lot of space in use and in storage. In the past, every time we used it the surgical team would have to bring it into the operating area from a separate storage room and, after the procedure, return it to storage, which really just increased the risk for damage. And we were limited to one or two rooms that were barely large enough to set up the robot,” Gharanfoli said. “Other departments, such as orthopedics and neurosurgery, also required the larger rooms and we simply were not able to meet the competing needs. Today, we have the flexibility to accommodate all of these services simultaneously.”
Northwest Hospital’s volume of robotic procedures has increased significantly over the last two years. Gharanfoli estimates that last year alone the hospital performed about 200 such procedures. Gharanfoli expects continued growth in bariatric and general procedures and said there is also potential for growth in colorectal and thoracic applications.
Another appreciated amenity, Gharanfoli says, is the addition of storage space in the operating rooms.
“The surgical team can have on hand whatever is needed for its procedures, which ultimately means less going in and out of rooms for the nurses and more time spent at the patient’s bedside,” Gharanfoli said. “It’s a staff and physician satisfier, but more importantly, it’s a quality-of-care improvement.”
This past September, one month after the operating room renovations were finished, the hospital turned its attention to the SurgiCenter, expanding its central processing area and installing new air handling units—standard, but hugely important improvements for surgical settings. “Air control is everything in the OR. Standards specify acceptable ranges for air exchanges, air pressure, room temperature and humidity levels to minimize the risk of surgical site infections,” Gharanfoli said.
The volume and array of procedures at the SurgiCenter have steadily increased since its grand opening six years ago. The center currently handles more than 60 percent of Northwest Hospital’s total joint procedures. The overall number of total joint procedures at Northwest has more than doubled in the last three years, and the hospital added eight new orthopedic surgeons within the past year. This growth further necessitated upgrades at the SurgiCenter. “The processing area upgrades were critical to our success. We use a large volume of instrument trays during orthopedic procedures, so we added an instrument washer and sterilizer to support this growing service,” Gharanfoli said.
The renovations were part of Northwest Hospital’s “Quest to be the Best,” a patient-driven endeavor to consistently improve the hospital’s delivery of health care and make Northwest the leading hospital in Maryland. It is an extension of LifeBridge Health’s mission to keep pace with health care trends and make medical breakthroughs of its own through intensive research and clinical trials, tagged “The Future of Health Care is Here.”
Gharanfoli said Northwest Hospital’s leaders are grateful for the cooperation from employees during the renovations. Lockers, lounges and break rooms were relocated and on-campus walking paths were frequently altered. But changes in workflow were the biggest challenges. Evening and after-hours staffing was increased to meet patient care needs beyond the elective schedule. Service locations also were shifted accordingly. For instance, one of the hospital’s two procedure rooms was temporarily converted into an operating room during renovations in the main suite, and the hospital had to close the SurgiCenter for upgrades during September and move operations to the main suite.
Through it all, the hospital was able to maintain the continuity of its surgical services.
“Throughout the various phases of the projects, we would have to shut down a working area and rely on another area more heavily,” Gharanfoli said. “What I think has really been most notable over the last few years has been the teamwork and patience displayed by all the employees, particularly amongst the surgical services team. Every day, there were different changes. And it wasn’t just about getting from this office to that office. You’re talking about how to get a patient from one place to another, or how to get to an equipment room or a supply room. From surgical scheduling to the perioperative care providers, to environmental services and even registration—every area was involved or impacted in this 3+ year project and contributed to its success.”
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