Date: 7/11/2002

New patient tower planned for St. Mary Medical Center

Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, Inc. will seek planning approval to begin construction this fall on a $36 million, 124,000-square-foot patient tower at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.

The new six-story brick and limestone tower will feature large, all-private patient rooms with private baths, central nurses’ stations, expanded cafeteria, a 165-seat auditorium for community education and new north and south entrances from 14th Street and 61st Avenue.

The new tower is the first of a three-phase expansion expected to be completed over the next three to five years. The second phase, a $14-million project, reconfigures the existing patient tower to provide expanded space for hospital support staff, and additional capacity for physician office space in the Medical Arts Building.

Construction of the new patient tower is expected to begin this fall, with parking lot work to begin in July or August, pending approval from the city of Hobart. The project is the largest capital investment made to date since the formation of the Community Healthcare System, joining St. Mary Medical Center, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and Community Hospital in Munster. For St. Mary Medical Center, the new patient tower is the largest expansion on its Hobart campus since the Medical Arts Building opened in 1988.

“When Community Healthcare System was formed, we committed to reinvesting back into these hospitals to build on a strong history of service to the community,” said Donald S. Powers, President and Chief Executive Officer of Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana. “We intend to keep pace with the advances in healthcare that will help area residents enjoy a higher quality of life and health. By investing in our hospitals, we are helping to keep our community strong and vital. And, as not-for-profit hospitals, we serve to protect and heal our most vulnerable citizens.”


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The new tower will house two visitors’ information desks, cafeteria, education conference rooms, auditorium, expanded gift shop and volunteer office, and conference and work rooms on the first floor. A 30-bed surgical unit with central nurses’ station, family gathering room and multi-purpose room for family consultations and special procedures will be housed on the second floor.

The third floor is dedicated to an orthopedic joint replacement unit with 28 beds and a physical therapy room so patients don’t have to travel to other parts of the hospital for therapy. The fourth floor will house the hospital’s mechanics, while St. Mary will dedicate the entire fifth floor as an oncology unit. A medical-surgical unit and pediatrics will share the sixth floor.

The construction of a new patient tower will not immediately increase the bed capacity of St. Mary Medical Center from its present 194. Essentially, the present patient rooms will be relocated when the patient tower is completed. The present patient rooms in the original tower, could however, be used to accommodate future growth.

“This project allows us to grow at the same impressive pace as the surrounding communities we serve,” said Milton Triana, administrator of St. Mary Medical Center. “We’re dedicated to reinvesting in the staff and facilities with which we serve. And we’re not putting off to tomorrow what can improve lives today.”

The patient rooms of the new tower are well proportioned, ranging from 175 to 200 square-feet to make visitors and patients feel very comfortable. Nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, tray ceilings, private baths, daybeds or sofas for family staying overnight alongside the patient and lots of hardwood cabinetry to conceal everything from oxygen hookups to garbage cans will keep patients focused on feeling relaxed and getting well. In designing this hospital of the future, the rooms will also be equipped with internet hook-ups and e-mail access.

The décor of the new patient tower borrows a soothing color palette from the native lake landscape of dunes and grasses. Visitors will be greeted by a see-through fireplace that graces the dining room. A landscaped brick courtyard located off the cafeteria will enable staff and visitors to relax outdoors in good weather. A larger servery will provide for more variety in food choices, and a larger dining room will better accommodate staff and visitors.

“In creating this new patient tower, we wanted to provide an environment that promotes healing, and makes our patients and visitors feel at home,” says John Gorski, Senior Vice President of Hospital Operations for Community Healthcare System. “We plan to take the task out of accessing healthcare by making a visit to the hospital more convenient and comfortable for all who enter our doors.”


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In addition to the patient care features, tucked inside the front lobby is an expanded conference area so the hospital can host a variety of health education and screening programs. Smaller conference rooms and a 165-seat auditorium will enable the hospital to expand on its educational offerings.

“This education facility will allow us to reach out to the community in our education efforts like we have never done before,” Triana said. “The public can expect more programs and lectures, making St. Mary an even more vital anchor in the community.”

With the tower comes a new entrance, welcoming visitors from the west off Ash Street and 61st Avenue. From the east, the hospital has committed to extending 14th street to bring visitors to the new tower from Lake Park Avenue. Once approvals are granted, work will begin immediately, starting with a new parking lot to be constructed on the southwest section of campus, allowing for the new tower foundation to be laid where the employee parking lot now sits.

Parking, which has been at a premium at the hospital in recent years, will increase from 700 to 1200 parking spaces over the course of the three-phase project. An additional 280 spaces will be added after the patient tower is complete. Construction of the new building is expected to begin in late November with completion expected in 18 to 24 months.

Phase II plans call for reconfiguring the existing tower for hospital support services. As some of these support service departments are moved from the Medical Arts Building, they’ll make way for more physician office space, which is currently at capacity.

The eastern entrance, currently the main entrance, will remain with an information desk to serve physician offices based there. The popular Garden Café, run by hospital volunteers, will also remain and likely be expanded. The main visitor lot along Lake Park Avenue will be used for patients visiting the Medical Arts Building.

The rectangular tower which sits lengthwise north to south on the St. Mary campus was designed by The Bachman Partnership of Highland. The group also designed Community Hospital and The Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster, and Savannah Center at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.

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