Monday, May 07, 2001

Grant Co. hospital expands


St. Elizabeth hospital adds to services

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. — St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Grant County is growing, much like the county itself.

        Construction workers with tool belts are as common around the hospital as doctors with stethoscopes. Ambulances glide past flatbed trucks loaded with building materials.

        A $2.5 million emergency room that opened in February was formally dedicated Sunday. A helipad for helicopter ambulances has been built. A $3 million outpatient surgery center is under construction.

        The expansion of the hospital reflects the growth of Grant County. According to recently released U.S. Census figures the county — which is about midway between Cincinnati and Lexington along Interstate 75 — the county grew from 15,737 people in 1990 to 22,384, a 42.2 percent jump, census figures show.

        As the population has grown, so has the number of patients served at St. Elizabeth, a 30-bed hospital at the end of Barnes Road in Williamstown.

        “When I came here sev en years ago we saw about 2,500 patients a year in the emergency room,” said Myrna Ward, director of patient services. “Now, we're doing about 12,000 a year, and it just keeps

        growing.”

        The recent and continuing expansions, however, are not merely a reaction to a decade of growth, said hospital administrator Chris Carle.

        “We're looking ahead at the next 10 years as well,” Mr. Carle said. “This county and really this whole area is just going to keep growing, and we want to be able to serve the needs of our patients and our community.”

        Grant County Judge-executive Darrell Link said most people don't appreciate a hospital until they need it.

        “But let me tell you what a comfort it is to have a facility like that in our county,” Mr. Link said. “They are doing a good job keeping up with the growth and they've built a real asset for our community with their modern and updated services.”

        Those services include:

        • A facility where 30 medical specialists from Northern Ken tucky come to see and treat patients.

        • A radiology department that uses the latest Internet and computer technology to transmit images to physicians in other locations or offices.

        • The new 11,500-square-foot emergency room, which replaces a 1,500-square-foot emergency room.

        There is increased capability to handle trauma patients, important because of the hospital's proximity to heavily traveled Interstate 75.

        “We also involved the staff in designing the emergency room,” Mrs. Ward said. “That has really improved patient flows and the overall efficiency of the operation.”

        With 85 employees at St. Elizabeth's Grant County hospital, the facility is far smaller than St. Elizabeth's hospitals in Edgewood and Covington, which employ more than 2,000 combined.

        But it serves patients in all or parts of seven counties: Grant, Gallatin, Pendleton, Owen, southern Boone, and southern Kenton.

        And it's the county's fourth-largest employer behind the Grant County School, auto parts maker Dana Corp. and a Wal-Mart store in Dry Ridge.

        It also helps economic development officials sell the county to prospective employers.

        “It's a real plus that makes my job a lot easier,” said Wade Gutman, executive director of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

        “And with the advances they are making in the last year or two it's really improved the quality of life in our community,” he said.

        Mr. Carle, who is also vice president of physician services for all of St. Elizabeth's hospitals, said the new equipment and facilities are important.

        “But it's really the people we have here that make this happen every day and make it such a special place,” he said.

       



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