Re-Imagining Plans for New Tower and More

October 25, 2019
New Tower 2019 CL

Every so often, it’s worth taking a step back and evaluating your plans to see if they’re still the right thing to do. This is important even if your plans have been in place for years and hundreds of people have been involved in making them.

That’s just what two NHRMC team members have done.

On Tuesday, Administrator of Surgical Services, Grant Rush and Orthopedic Hospital Site Administrator, David Oehler presented a proposal to the NHRMC Executive Team that has led the organization to re-examine plans for new orthopedic, heart, vascular, and neuroscience centers.

NHRMC has long-range plans for expanding all these centers. The changes proposed by Rush and Oehler potentially could advance some of these structural projects by almost a decade and save millions of dollars.

“Our minds were blown,” said John Gizdic, NHRMC President and CEO. “What they presented is creative and bold. They challenged a course that was seemingly set and asked us to consider a new possibility. It’s exactly the kind of critical thinking we like to see.”

Rush and Oehler proposed keeping inpatient orthopedics at the current Orthopedic Hospital on the Cape Fear campus rather than moving the service into the new patient tower on the 17th Street campus when it’s ready next summer.  This would keep inpatient and outpatient orthopedic services together in a space that is easy for patients to access and would help surgeons and staff by keeping them together.

“When the new tower was originally proposed to house orthopedics, inpatient surgery was a much bigger part of the surgical mix,” said Oehler. “Now, more orthopedic procedures are done on an outpatient basis and that percentage is expected to grow.”

Oehler and Rush proposed building an orthopedic-anchored hospital for both inpatient and outpatient surgeries on the north side of New Hanover County, near NHRMC Emergency Department-North and Atlantic Surgicenter.  NHRMC’s long-term master facilities plan calls for a community hospital to be built in that area to meet the needs of the growing population, but its exact timing and focus had not been determined. 

Making this change in plans would open space on the main NHRMC campus to grow the high-acuity services that need to be there, such as heart, vascular and neuroscience care.

Instead of housing orthopedics, the new tower to be a heart and vascular center, according to the plan. A new space for a neuroscience/stroke center could then be built partially in the areas that now house heart services. Taking this step would save the millions of dollars originally forecast to be spent building a third tower for those services on the NHRMC campus.

“By doing this, we could increase capacity for these much-needed services up to ten years sooner than we could otherwise,” said Rush. “The additional beds, operating rooms and procedure spaces would improve access and patient care.”

Rush and Oehler will share more details at the VP/Directors meeting on Monday, October 28. Those details will be made available to staff and physicians after that meeting.

There are still many unanswered questions and no decision will be made on whether to make the proposed changes until they can be evaluated further by larger teams of physicians and staff.

“The potential implications could be significant,” said Gizdic. “We’re going to carefully explore them in the coming weeks. While we’re not quite ready to say this is the plan we’ll follow, we are appreciative of what has been done to reimagine how to best serve our patients through the design and use of our facilities. Grant and David, along with the facilities and strategy teams that have supported the analysis, have done amazing work.”