OR trip you’ll want to take


The neighborhood is about to get bigger.

And why shouldn’t it? Warwick has the airport, lots of hotels, the college, Route 2 and the mall.

Now it’s going to have an ambulatory surgery center and, like the mall, the airport and CCRI, this is more than just another building. The center being operated by Kent Hospital and the newest addition to the hospital campus will open to the public tomorrow starting at 11 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m.

In many respects, the center will have a bit of what Warwick is known for. There will be rooms for patients who want to spend the night under the watchful medical staff following their surgery.

The first floor of the new building, to be built out over the next year, is like a mall but, instead of retail outlets, there will be as many as 25 physician offices. It will have common areas and conference rooms where medical staff can meet to discuss a patient’s case, or talk about how to improve center operations. It’s called a “medical neighborhood.”

And yes, there’s even a bit of the airport in the second floor 30,000-square foot ambulatory surgery center. Like a flight status board, family and friends will be able to follow just where patients are in the procedure. In place of names, and to ensure privacy, patients will be given numbers.

And, more like the airlines of the past than those today, there will be creature comforts for those waiting for patients. In addition to television, wi-fi and comfortable seats, the waiting area includes a self-serve area with beverages and snacks.

That’s more akin to the airlines, says Kathy O’Neill, nurse manager of surgical services on a tour of the center last Friday. Finishing touches were being added, with work crews installing equipment and going over details. A unique feature of the center is operating rooms not designed for specific procedures. They are “generic” and can be converted into specialized surgical suites when carts are wheeled into alcoves recessed into the rooms that have been prepared with the equipment required. Turnaround time between cases, much like an airplane being cleaned and readied for more passengers, is less than 20 minutes.

If all of this sounds different than what’s being done elsewhere, it’s not.

“We’re probably late in the game,” said hospital president and CEO Sandra Coletta. There are lots of ambulatory surgery centers offering outpatient procedures outside of the traditional hospital setting. But Coletta believes there’s also opportunity in being a bit of the latecomer.

“Sometimes, when you’re not first, it allows you to do something special,” she said.

Fenn Dickinson, interim director of surgical services, said the trend is toward increased levels of outpatient procedures nationally. He put that number at 60 percent of surgical procedures, attributing the trend to laparoscopic surgeries that are less invasive and reduce recovery times and hospital stays.

By segregating outpatient from inpatient and emergency room surgeries, the center is able to adhere to a schedule removed from the unpredictability and stress that can accompany a hospital stay.

Coletta sees the synergy of having the hospital virtually a corridor away. She said the center’s eight operating rooms could become emergency operating rooms, should a community disaster require it. Similarly, a patient at the ambulatory center could be wheeled into the emergency department if the situation required.

The center is designed with a circular workflow, with patients being ushered into a pre-operative bay that, unlike hospital bays, is separated by walls, not curtains. The bays are large and painted in mute colors to create a warm environment. Lending to the feeling of openness are wide corridors that one can imagine would ease the passage of patients and make for a smooth transition to the eight operating rooms and then to post-operation bays to be monitored before being discharged. Flow and communication are managed from a control center where nursing, anesthesia and surgery come together.

Like the kitchen of a large hotel, at the core of the center specialized surgical equipment is loaded into carts before being dispatched to operation rooms. It is also where carts return after a procedure to be sterilized and packaged for the next procedure.

As Coletta points out, visitors to the center will get to see an operating room from a unique perspective. They will have the chance to listen to those who will work from these rooms describe what they are seeing and ask questions as they proceed – an opportunity they wouldn’t have, nor probably want, as a patient.

As for when the center will welcome its first patient, that will happen next month.


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