By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published September 1, 2005
Continuing a tradition of growth in building and innovation, Saint Joseph’s Hospital administrators are planning and implementing a $311 million expansion project for the long-time Catholic institution, including major expansion of its nationally recognized heart and vascular program.
The goal of the five-year strategic plan, which they are halfway into, is to make Saint Joseph’s the preeminent, adult multi-specialty hospital in the Southeast. The hospital, which began with 10 beds, has already received approval for room expansion and will add 64 beds to have a total of 410, with an expected completion date of January.
Another major component of the plan, called “Great Destinations 2007,” involves expanding cardiovascular services into a new five-story building, the Heart and Vascular Institutes, which will house physician offices; outpatient clinics; early detection, diagnostics, heart failure and rehabilitation clinics; catheter labs; and more.
Saint Joseph’s Health System CEO Bonnie Phipps, former CEO of Promina Health System, said the expansion will include the latest technology under one roof. “It’s a huge part of our business—about 57 percent of our revenue is between heart and vascular and we’ve always been ‘cutting edge,’ so we want to continue to have that position in the market.”
Saint Joseph’s is partnering with Siemens Medical Solutions to obtain diagnostic and imaging equipment along with computer systems to merge clinical, administrative and financial information.
“We just signed an agreement to be one of six global partners in cardiac excellence with Siemens … So the plan is that in five years we’ll be able to have everything on the same database, and clinicians will be able to see images wherever they are, in patients’ rooms and in their offices. And all of the images will be in one large database,” said Phipps. “It’s a vision of the new clinical world where everything will be digital, everything will be available.”
The nonprofit hospital reported, after two flat years, that net income rose to $27.5 million in 2003 and to $53 million last year, with about half of that coming from investments, according to an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Administrators will raise some of the project funds through donations, with the rest coming from existing reserves and bonds. Phipps explained that as a nonprofit “when we make a profit it just doesn’t go to shareholders. We are able to invest it back into the facilities … Our shareholders are the community and the hospital, and we fund Mercy Care for the poor.”
In 2003 the emergency room received 64,000 square feet of space and other state-of-the-art improvements, and more are planned. The current project also involves expansion of the Saint Joseph’s Research Institute, Palliative Care and Pastoral Care programs, development of the Center for Ethics in Health Care, establishment of the Kenneth E. Thomas Center for Nursing Excellence, a spiritual fellowship program, as well as facilities upgrades and improvements at Mercy Care Services headquarters on Decatur Street in downtown Atlanta.
Marti Taylor joined the staff seven months ago as president of the Heart and Vascular Institutes, having previously worked for 18 years for the Duke University Health System, first as a nurse and then in administration. She was attracted to the broad continuum of heart and vascular services from wellness care to treatment of chronic conditions to heart transplants, as well as to the progressiveness of the physicians and Phipps. “Bonnie is a very progressive CEO and tries to look into the future and see what we need to do. We’re on the cutting edge with new technology…We’re doing a lot of research in the catheterization labs. There’s not a month or two that goes by that there’s not some new technology that we’re one of the first to have available to patients,” she said. “We have physicians who are progressive and want the best for patients.”
A Lutheran, she’s been impressed with the sense of spirituality as well. “You walk up the floors here, and you feel that the staff really care…If you’re a patient on the other side of the bed rail, it really means a lot to you. Sick patients are so vulnerable.”
She noted how this year the hospital was the first in Georgia to acquire the SOMATOM Sensation Cardiac 64, the world’s first and fastest 64-slice computed tomography system, which provides unprecedented image quality with specific cardiac applications. “This 64-slice CT system can produce such exact, 3-D images of the body—especially the heart—that were never possible before…physicians can determine if a patient’s condition requires an invasive procedure, or if a non-invasive solution is possible,” she said.
Taylor also noted that Duke surgeons have come to Saint Joseph’s for training to use the minimally invasive, robotic da Vinci Surgical System for heart procedures, as last year it was designated as the training center for the Southeast.
Phipps believes that advanced robotics is revolutionizing minimally invasive surgery for both the patient and the physician. “The da Vinci System and our training designation illustrate Saint Joseph’s mission to offer the most advanced medical technology and provide the best health care to our patients.”
Just as the spiritual state of the heart shapes one’s entire life, the staff at Saint Joseph’s believes the cardiac program growth will precipitate further advancement across the board.
One of the aesthetic highlights of the expansion project is a reflection garden and glass and steel bell tower that will rise from the “heart” of the 32-acre campus, honoring the Sisters of Mercy on the hospital’s 125th anniversary
The $1 million tower, a donation from the family and friends of the late Uberto Visconti di Modrone, including his daughter Chiara, will be named in memory of Visconti, a former hospital board member, and his wife Antonella.
Phipps believes the garden will enhance the pastoral Mercy spirit that permeates the hospital. “We’ll ring the bell twice a day so we’ll have that religious overtone… It will be a place where the patients and staff can go out and get a little respite from what’s going on inside … an oasis in the middle of campus. It will become a quiet, restful, calm place.”