Seventeen years ago, during his first go-around as mayor of Herndon, Richard Thoesen helped make the Reston Hospital Center a reality. Last week, Thoesen, a hospital board member, helped usher in a new age for the privately owned and operated hospital as doctors and nurses prepared to open an expansive and sparkling new emergency room.
Likening the 16-year-old hospital to Hollywood’s favorite underdog thoroughbred du jour, Thoesen recalled the many challenges, changes and battles that the Reston health center has faced over the years. "We are the Seabiscuit of the hospital community. This hospital has great character and great integrity," Thoesen said. "It’s the people of this hospital community that makes us great. We have great heart and great spirit and like Seabiscuit we have survived it all."
The opening of the new emergency room, hospital officials said, is a major milestone in the Reston Hospital Center’s $100 million expansion project. Doubling in size, the new emergency facility will have 31 new state-of-the-art observation and exam rooms, up from 15 in the old wing. From computerized bedside registration, modern monitoring systems and a spacious nurse’s lounge to a noticeably large flat-screen plasma television in the waiting area, the new nearly 19,000 square foot emergency department promises to cater to the hospital’s team of nurses and doctors as much as it will to patients and their families.
"This is just a preview of what’s to come," said William A. Adams, the hospital center’s president and CEO, at a unveiling last week. "This is just the first part of a major expansion project. We all have a lot more to look forward to in the future."
Monday’s opening comes after the January 2002 completion of the for-profit hospital’s new Endoscopy Unit, the first project completed in the center’s overall expansion. Just beyond the ER, work continues on a five-story addition, the West Wing, which broke ground shortly after the Endoscopy Unit opened. The new tower, slated to open early next year, will house a new maternity center, 60 additional patient beds, community education classrooms and administrative offices, officials said.
Next month, the center will open its much anticipated and much needed 1,050-space parking garage. In addition, construction of a new medical office building, dubbed the Parkway Medical Tower, should be completed in early 2004.
In March, Virginia officials approved the hospital’s expansion project. Once the project, which is the first major expansion for the 16-year-old 127-bed hospital, is complete, the new and improved facility, owned by Nashville-based HCA, will feature 187 beds all in private rooms. "This hospital shows us that ‘for-profit’ is not a dirty word," Thoesen told an estimated 100 local dignitaries and staffers at a reception on Thursday.
"UP UNTIL NOW, it’s been a little, shall we say, compressed here," said Terry Kreider, director of Reston’s Emergency department. "I am so excited. Just look at it. It’s gorgeous."
Kreider, a registered nurse, said the new facility should drastically cut down on wait times in the emergency room. To accommodate the anticipated increase in patients, the director said the hospital is returning to a "team approach," which will utilize two nurses and one doctor. With emergency medicine, Kreider said it is crucial for hospitals to cut down on wait times. More than 2,300 patients make their way into Reston’s emergency room each month, and that number is expected to rise as the surrounding population continues growing, officials said.
Often times, ambulances re-route critical patients to hospitals due to a lack of space rather than proximity. Reston’s expansion should alleviate the re-routing concerns of nearby residents, Kreider said.
"It seems like it was just yesterday that we were opening this hospital," said state Sen. Janet Howell as she toured the facility with nurse Julia Vafier.
When the hospital opened in November 1996, Howell was the president of the Reston Citizen’s Association (RCA) and a proponent of putting a hospital in Reston, despite fears from some members of the community and the state. "We had to fight to bring this here," she said. "Now look at it. It’s beautiful."
THOESEN AND HOWELL recalled some of the early struggles that hospital proponents had in trying to convince Virginia health officials about the center's need for full obstetrical service. "There was a time when you could die in Reston, but you couldn't be born in Reston," Thoesen said. "They said it couldn't be done. We proved them wrong. Now more than 2,500 babies are born each year here."
Jane Raymond, the hospital’s vice president and chief operating officer, said she couldn’t be more happy with the new expansion which she said will cut down on wait times while reducing the number of patients the hospital has to turn away when it is full. The expansion will go a long way towards easing the stress felt by patients, family and staff, she said. "It’s been a long time coming, a long time," said Raymond, who oversees radiology and lab services at Reston Hospital. "It’s just a great gift to the staff and to the community. Just look around and see how pleased everybody on the staff is. They can’t stop smiling."
Nurse Meggan Klippen was one of those smiling staffers. "It’s beautiful," she said.
But for Klippen , the ER administrative supervisor, there is more to be excited about than shiny new floors and sparkling new equipment. "My role is placing patients and at our old ER there just wasn’t enough space to go around which made for a very tense situation," she said. "With double the number of beds, we won’t have patients lined up in the hall and in random alcoves."
Klippen added that while the change is positive, moving to a new larger facility creates its own set of challenges. "It’s a little bit scary," she admitted. "This is two or three times as big as what we are used to. We are going to have to adjust to being spread out which is why the team approach is good. We don’t know entirely what to expect, but after a few days, we’ll be used to it."