Five Years at Meritus Medical Center

On December 11, 2010, patient care ceased at Washington County Hospital and 165 patients were transported to the new Meritus Medical Center. The success of the move was a testament to the hundreds of nurses, physicians, administrators and staff who planned the hospital during the course of seven years.

For many, leaving Antietam Street was bittersweet, but five years later, the staff now proudly call Meritus Medical Center home.

Feels like home

“I felt like I grew up at Washington County Hospital,” says Carol Grove, RN, director of maternal-child services and education. After the move, Carol went back to the old hospital and saw the tributes written on the walls by staff members. “We had a lot of good memories at the old hospital, but we’ve moved on and are creating new memories at Meritus Medical Center.”

On move day,Joan Fortney, RNdirector of nursing operations, coordinated the transport of patients from Washington County Hospital to Meritus Medical Center. “During construction, the new hospital felt so cold—it didn’t have life,” says Joan. “But on December 11, the ‘life’ moved here.”

Single patient rooms, sweeping views of the countryside, an open floor plan and natural light make Meritus Medical Center a modern marvel. The hospital’s lobby overlooks the Robin’s Cove dining room and reveals two stories of floor-to-ceiling windows. Meritus Medical Center also features additional operating rooms and catheterization labs, state-of-the-art equipment, patient safety technology and an expanded emergency department.

As chief medical officer, Heather Lorenzo, M.D., looks to attract new health care providers to Meritus Health. She showcases the architecturally pleasing hospital and the one-million-square-foot health care campus to prospective physicians and advanced practice providers. “With the focus on keeping the community healthy, it’s important to have inpatient and outpatient services under one roof,” says Dr. Lorenzo.

“When I round on patients, I often hear them say that they’ve been to other hospitals, but they prefer to come here because of our people, technology and how we care about the community,” says Brett Kane, administrative director for surgical services.

How we’ve changed

“We would really be struggling if we were still at Washington County Hospital in light of the changes in health care,” says Carol. “Wireless access, single patient rooms and the efficient floor design lend themselves to the way we work now.”

“I remember taking patients from critical care to radiology and pushing their stretchers past the snack bar or having patients share elevators with visitors,” says Bob Porter, director of respiratory care. “Meritus Medical Center is laid out so systematically and has dedicated patient corridors and elevators.”

For nutrition services, the change from the old to the new hospital was like night and day. “We extended our hours of service, quadrupled our food offerings and improved food service delivery,” says Joe Fleischman, head chef. “The efficient kitchen layout, state-of-the-art kitchen equipment and dedicated service elevators moved nutrition services into the 21st century. “We cut our food delivery time in half,” says Chef Joe.

Nutrition services offers healthier food choices and implemented “fryerless” technology. “We were one of the first hospitals in the state to eliminate fried food,” says Chef Joe.

Fond memories

Joan recalls walking through the corridors of Washington County Hospital after the patients and staff had settled into the new hospital. “I thought about all those emotions staff members had experienced throughout the years: my first delivery, my first trauma patient or the lives I helped save.”

“When we brought the public through to see the new hospital, I could see in their eyes how impressed they were with the technology and safety aspects,” says Brett. “They were blown away by it.” Days later, Brett’s cardiac team cared for multiple STEMIs or heart attack patients on a daily basis. “It was really busy, but because we prepared for the move, we were able to adapt and handle the volume.”

A promise to the community

From its inception seven years ago, Meritus Medical Center was created with the patient in mind. And with changes in health care—a focus on patient safety, quality measures, family-centered care and patient satisfaction—the time and effort spent planning the hospital has paid off.

“To move a hospital is a once-in-a-career experience,” says Joan. “When I drive up the road and see the hospital, I think, ‘I helped build this.’ Every staff member played a part in this amazing accomplishment.”