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Cecil County Life

Union Hospital's Surgical Services suites now a state-of-the-art facility

Jan 01, 2015 01:58PM ● By Kerigan Butt

Kenneth Lewis, M.D., the president and CEO of Union Hospital, called the complete renovation of the Surgical Services suites a milestone in the history of the hospital. The new suites allow for better and safer care for patients.

By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

The transformation is well underway.

Union Hospital is completely renovating and modernizing its Surgical Services suites into a state-of-the-art facility, and patients are already seeing the benefits, even though the project won't be completed for another year.

“It's a huge milestone for Union Hospital,” explained hospital president and CEO Dr. Kenneth Lewis, M.D. “What makes the project special is that it aligns so well with where medical care is going. It's about providing the best possible patient care in a safe environment.”

Lewis outlined some of the advantages of the modernized Surgical Services suites at a Sept. 30 press conference at the hospital. As a modern, state-of-the-art facility, the Surgical Services unit incorporates the best practices in patient care, provides a full complement of resources for a specialized surgical staff, and allows for greater efficiencies and enhanced safety measures for the transportation of both patients and supplies.

The new suites will be larger to minimize the risk of patient infections. Circulation zones will be created for the sterile and easy movement of both staff and supplies around the operating suite. The larger suites also provide the space necessary for larger, more modern medical equipment that is used in many procedures, such as an endoscopy.

The old Surgical Services rooms dated back to 1971 and the size and design of the rooms limited the staff when it came to certain efficiencies. Despite that, Lewis said, the hospital did make the most of the old surgical spaces.

“We've made ongoing investments in technology over the years, so the technology was up to date even though the rooms were not,” Lewis explained.

The modernized Surgical Services suites will allow Union Hospital to fully utilize the most up-to-date technologies that will improve the patient experience by allowing for smaller incisions which result in less pain and bleeding during surgery. As a consequence, there will be shorter recovery times and a lowered risk of infections. As surgery times are decreased, the pain that a patient will likely experience will be minimized and the recovery time will be faster.

This project initially started in September of 2013 and is expected to take a total of about 24 months to complete. As the project crosses the halfway point, three of the five new surgical rooms have been completed and are currently being used by staff to treat patients. The new surgical suites, Lewis said, allow the surgeons and staff to optimize medical care to patients, and everyone is giving great reviews to the new Surgical Services suites.

“The feedback from the staff has been very good,” said Lewis. “The patient experience has been improved. You can tell when something is special when surgeons are calling up the administration and thanking us for the improvements."

Katie Boston-Leary, the chief nursing officer for Union Hospital, agreed with the assessment that staff members are pleased with the new surgical suites.

“Our surgeons love the new space," she said. "Morale is through the roof in the department. And we definitely are in the process of recruiting new surgeons.”

Lewis and Boston-Leary both talked about how the project will help retain current surgeons and attract new ones.

Some of the improvements that the project will bring focus on the experiences that the family and friends will have as a patient receives care. There is a family-centered approach to post-surgical care with glass-enclosed patient bays to increase privacy and designated pediatric bays that ease the fear and anxiety a child experiences after surgery. Families can see updates on patients from pre- to post-surgery with digital patient tracking boards.

Another aspect of the project that will help with the hospital's mission is that it will provide critical resources for the surgical staff. The new layout for the operating suites and post-anesthesia care areas will better position staff to perform the important observation and documentation functions necessary during procedures and recovery.

Surgeons at Union Hospital will be able to utilize tele-medicine where a doctor in another part of the country could watch the proceedings and offer advice.

The operating rooms themselves will incorporate telescoping booms that will allow equipment to be moved easily into position during procedures and stored securely and safely while not in use. All operating suites include new and efficient LED lighting. Ergonomic computer workstations allow staff to update electronic medical records and complete required professional development activities in a timely manner.

The new surgical suites are designed to optimize the flow of both patients and supplies. The renovation combines currently underutilized space and repurposing portions of the existing Surgical Services department to reconfigure patient care areas, including surgery prep, post-anesthesia care, and recovery. The Surgical Services reconfiguration will provide easy and efficient access between “prep” and “post” areas and the operating suites, and new elevators will allow for dedicated transport for sterilized equipment and supplies between the Sterile Processing Department and the surgical areas.

Because of the improved technology and state-of-the-art facilities, the renovated Surgical Services suites will also allow the hospital to bring new programs and services to the community in the years to come.

Hospital officials said that there has been no disruption to patient care during the project. Lewis credited Whiting-Turner, the construction company overseeing the project, with ensuring that the work goes on without disrupting the normal operations of the hospital.

“They've been fantastic,” Lewis explained, noting that it's quite a challenge to renovate surgical suites while the surgical unit continues to function as normal.

Once the project is completed, the modern design of the surgical suites will ensure that procedures are completed as efficiently as possible.

“We definitely build in some efficiencies in the design,” explained Boston-Leary.

The total cost of the renovation project is approximately $12 million. Lewis said that the hospital received a $2 million grant from Maryland that helped jump start the fundraising effort. The Union Hospital Auxiliary made a commitment of $411,000 and the Stewart Companies committed $250,000 to the project. An appeal to Union Hospital employees and board members has raised more than $160,000 so far. The Cecil County Department of Social Services is offering a matching grant of $50,000.

Lewis said that hospital officials are thankful for the support that has been received from a diverse group of organizations and individuals in the area. The hospital is now embarking on the next phase of the capital campaign, which will involve reaching out to the residents and businesses in the local communities that are served by the hospital. There will be a direct-mail appeal and hospital officials will also be meeting with local organizations to discuss the project and the need for financial assistance to finish the fund the much-needed project.

Ultimately, many people will play a role in making this project a reality. The project will allow the hospital to improve the level of care for patients in the Cecil County community.

“Efforts like this embody what a community hospital is all about,” Lewis said.

To get more information about the project or to make a contribution, contact Bill Pritchard, the Union Hospital Foundation executive director at 410-620-3745 or

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email

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