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Hospital renovation a delicate operation

Contractors work with surgical precision to remove old parts of Morton Plant without injuring parts still in use.

Published February 14, 2004

CLEARWATER - If it seems like it's taking a long time to demolish the old Morton Plant Hospital buildings on Fort Harrison Avenue, that's because it is.

The hospital won't send a wrecking ball wildly through the facility because some of it is connected to a building still used by doctors and patients.

Instead, the demolition crew is taking the piecemeal approach.

"Some of this demolition actually has been taking place by hand because we have had to actually separate the old buildings from the existing buildings, and you obviously need to be careful when you're doing that," said Beth Hardy, the hospital's spokeswoman.

The brick and mortar mess is part of an $84-million renovation to the 88-year-old hospital. First, four buildings at 300 Pinellas St. have to be destroyed so that a larger building can rise in their place.

The new building will streamline the hospital experience for staffers and patients, said Philip Beauchamp, the hospital's chief executive officer.

"It means we are going to continue to have the facilities and technology to support the program that has been in place for many years," said Beauchamp. "(We will) assure the community that they will have access to the most modern facility, patient access and convenience."

The plan includes adding 100 private rooms to the 687-bed facility and a new heart hospital complete with five open-heart operating rooms, seven heart catheterization labs, 21 critical cardiac patient rooms and dedicated family waiting rooms.

This week, the hospital's Roebling Building is being taken apart. Named for the hospital's first benefactor and inventor of an amphibious vehicle used in World War II, Donald Roebling's legacy will live on. The new building will carry both his family name and the name of other benefactors. Bricks from the old building are being saved for a philanthropic use, said Beauchamp.

Meanwhile, a smaller, adjacent building that is also part of the renovations is almost finished. The Donna and Wil Ptak Orthopaedics and Neurosciences Pavilion and accompanying parking garage is set to open in June.

When construction and renovations are complete in 2007, patients and doctors will find that their health care experience is streamlined. Morton Plant will introduce the idea of the "universal bed," wherein a patient will keep the same room and bed for the length of their stay.

Currently, patients are shuffled up and down elevators between linked hospital areas on different floors. Under the new system, a patient might be in the room next door to their heart surgeon and down the hall from the operating room.

"Patients who are treated will be treated in the same room and discharged in the same room in which they are admitted," Beauchamp said. "Your surgeon will be no further than across the hall. You will receive intensive care in that room and you will receive routine care."

It's all in the name of improving service.

"This is a tremendous, tremendous patient satisfier," he said.

- Adrienne Samuels can be reached at 445-4157 or Times files were used for this report.

[Last modified February 14, 2004, 01:31:45]

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