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Local VA hospital shows off updates

November 27, 2018

More than 14 years after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to close its Fort Wayne hospital : and six years after the infirmary was temporarily shut down : local VA officials Monday showed off renovated inpatient areas and a building addition for sterilizing surgical instruments.

Audrey Frison, associate director of patient care for the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, spoke to the media during a tour of the medical center at Lake Avenue and Randallia Drive.

“I’m just in awe of how far we’ve come. I’m very excited,” she said.

System Director Michael Hershman said VA has spent 150 million worth of projects planned for the 68-year-old campus. 

“And what does that mean for our veterans? The best care anywhere. Highest quality, state-of-the-art facilities for those who deserve it most,” Hershman said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

VA has transformed part of the fourth floor into nine single-patient rooms, each with its own bathroom and patient lift system, plus a four-room intensive care unit. The rest of the floor will be remodeled next year so that the hospital will have 26 single-patient rooms in all.

“Our inpatient unit had rooms that veterans would share : two to a room or even four to a room. And, in some of the areas, they had to go down the hall to have a shower,” said Dr. Wayne McBride, chief of staff for the system.

The revamped section of the hospital “is a really remarkable place where patients can seek care and be able to heal in a very comfortable and spacious environment,” McBride said.

The average daily patient count at the hospital is 13.5. Frison said she expects more patients soon as flu season intensifies.

In 2004, VA said it would close its Fort Wayne hospital as part of a reorganization of medical facilities nationwide. By 2009, the agency had decided to replace the medical center with an outpatient clinic and contract with community hospitals for inpatient care. Instead, the medical center and its hospital stayed put, and an outpatient clinic for mental health care opened nearby.

But in 2012, VA suspended all inpatient services in Fort Wayne more than a month for what the VA inspector general would deem was substandard patient care caused by staffing shortages, lapses in clinical judgment and leadership failures. Inpatient care was restored in phases over the next year as local VA officials demonstrated they had taken corrective actions to address shortcomings.

The hospital renovation covered 26,500 square feet of space. VA added 14,500 square feet off the medical center’s basement for sterile processing, logistics, purchasing and a small warehouse. 

The Fort Wayne medical center previously sent its surgical, dental and podiatry equipment to its sister facility in Marion for cleaning. Steve Askew, chief of sterile processing, said Monday that the local campus had not had instrument sterilization capabilities since the 1990s. 

Next year, VA will begin building a primary care floor on top of the sterile processing service.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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