Release Date: July 27, 2009

Affinity Health System starts up latest phase of St. Elizabeth Hospital update

Appleton Post Crescent

Construction crews and equipment are about as common on the St. Elizabeth Hospital campus on S. Oneida Street these days as patients and medical personnel. Since 2005, Menasha-based Affinity Health System, which runs the hospital, has been working to bring the more than 100-year-old facility into the modern age. The first part, which carried a $23 million price tag, included a 438-stall parking garage and 53,000-square-foot addition as well as a new entrance and updated facilities for an assortment of patient services. Now, workers from Appleton-based Boldt Co. are working on the new Heart and Lung Center, an $8.3 million project, which when completed will rehabilitate 5,000 square feet of existing space and add 25,000 more square feet to the hospital. "For me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to regenerate the campus on its existing footprint," said Travis Andersen, president of St. Elizabeth Hospital. Affinity has no definitive timetable for the complete renovation of St. Elizabeth, though officials estimate the entire project could take another seven to 10 years. "We are working on this slowly and incrementally," Andersen said. "It's part of our stewardship to make the best use of our resources." Planning for the heart and lung center began about 16 months ago, said Gary Kusnierz, vice president of performance excellence for Affinity. The facility should be completed by Sept. 1. Affinity is paying for the Heart and Lung Center out of its operating budget, Andersen said. The system did not borrow money for the project. Andersen said it's difficult to put a price tag on the entire rehabilitation of St. Elizabeth. "We're trying to use as much of the existing space as possible," he said. "We will renovate where we can, but we're always re-evaluating what we're going to do." Anyone curious about how the entire facade of the hospital will look like after all the work is finished simply has to look at the new entrance. Inside is another case, though visitors eventually will see the first part of what Travis described as a loop hallway network that one day will circle the hospital. "What we're planning here are upgrades that will last us at least the next 40 years," he said. The exam rooms in the new heart and lung center were designed based on input from patients and staff, Kusnierz said. "People want to do private things in private places," he said. By that he means patients want to talk medical staff one on one about medical conditions and treatment plans. Regarding the heart and lung center, Andersen said the updated facility will incorporate Affinity's COURAGE (Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Guideline-Driven Drug Evaluation) program, which will focus on preventive cardiac care. It uses a team approach, similar to Affinity's home care model, now utilized in some of its medical offices. The team concept ensures a patient works with one group of medical professionals, which provides efficiencies in care delivery ultimately contributing to lower costs. "All the upgrades we're doing is about creating a collaborative environment for our staff but at the same time working toward finding ways to help the community best manage heart disease," Andersen said. He said because Affinity operates a health plan � Network Health � and is a care provider, as an integrated delivery system its mission is to offer care efficiently and at the lowest cost. "If everyone can work together collaboratively, it's part of our overall plan to squeeze down costs," Andersen said. Though the entire rehabilitation of the hospital could last a decade or more, Affinity will continually update finished sections to keep up with the latest renovations. "A few years ago, our analysis of this hospital showed us it would be better for us to remain here and update instead of uprooting to build brand new," Kusnierz said. "With the development of U.S. 441, we've got great access, plus we're just across the (Oneida Street) bridge from downtown Appleton."