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Smart Space in Howard County
Our Columbia cousin is adding on

Beth Plavner and Jay Blackman with a rendering of Howard County General Hospital’s future façade in the background. The new building, on the left, is joined to the old by a glass “knuckle.”
Those towering construction cranes, so ubiquitous in East Baltimore, soon will be making their way to Howard County General Hospital, where plans for a five-level patient tower and new parking garage are under way.

Though dramatically smaller in scale, HCGH’s campus development plan has more than a few things in common with Hopkins Hospital’s. All 90 new inpatient rooms, for example, will be private, and the existing, semiprivate medical/surgical rooms will be converted to private. Driving this decision is a familiar theme—patient safety. “With private rooms, patients experience fewer falls, hospital-acquired infections and medical errors,” says special project administrator Beth Plavner. “Rooms are quieter, so patients rest better.”

Like her counterparts on Hopkins Hospital’s in-house design team, Plavner set up a mock room so that safety features like stall-less showers and handrails running from bed to bath could be carefully assessed. Work alcoves, tucked between every two rooms, are designed to keep nurses close by the bedside. Daybeds suggest rooming-in is welcome.

Along with inpatient rooms, the addition will house expanded ancillary programs and patient services. Two state-of-the-art ORs to accommodate the hospital’s growing surgical services will be in the renovated portion of the project.

Not unlike East Baltimore, HCGH is facing escalating health-care construction costs. Originally projected at $73 million, the project, predicts Jay Blackman, chief operating officer, will cost significantly more. It will be financed with debt, the hospital’s working capital and about $20 million in charitable contributions. HCGH already has received $3 million from Howard County and is up to the challenge of fund raising for bricks and mortar. “We’re a vital community resource and the only hospital in the county,” Blackman points out. “These are not just replacement facilities. We’re adding capacity as well, and that translates into beds. Our community knows they will benefit directly.”

In Maryland, when a hospital wants to expand, it must first prove that it needs to do so to the Maryland Health Care Commission, the organization that regulates health-care facility expansion and issues “certificates of need.” Blackman hopes for a CON by year’s end.

Then, because the entrance and parking layout will be reconfigured, HCGH will submit a site development plan to the county. As for the garage, says Blackman, it will be for employees; patients and visitors will use surface parking, closer to the hospital entrance. All parking will be free.

Building is slated to begin about a year from now. The project, except for the renovation of existing rooms, will be complete in early FY2010.

Anne Bennett Swingle



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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