Extended-care unit has hotel ambience Hospital facility opens for elderly

July 22, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Without the red oxygen buttons and medical waste containers attached to the walls, the accommodations at Harbor Hospital Center's new Extended Care Facility might even pass for cozy hotel rooms.

From the wood-paneled dining room, complete with player piano, to tastefully decorated lounge to panoramic views of Baltimore's harbor, administrators at the Brooklyn hospital have gone out of their way to make patients feel they are not in a hospital.

In fact, the staff doesn't even use the word "patient." The folks staying in their unit are called "residents."

During a break from festivities at the unit's grand opening yesterday, administrator Barbara Gustke explained that the concept behind the 26-bed unit is to give patients a more comfortable and cost-effective way to convalesce before being released from the hospital.

"It allows us to move an elderly person out of the hospital sooner, which ultimately is cost saving," she said. "This costs about $500 to $600 a day, compared with an acute hospital bed, which costs about $1,200 to $1,400 a day."

Harbor Hospital, the fifth hospital in the state to establish an extended-care facility within the existing hospital, had to obtain a nursing home license from the state to open the unit. Although not restricted to the elderly, most of the patients will be senior citizens, said Ms. Gustke.

"They are the ones that tend to need the most care," she said. Most will be recovering from orthopedic surgery, from broken or fractured hips, or from strokes, she said.

Without the extended care unit, she said, many of the patients would spend extra weeks in hospital wards, running up higher-than-necessary bills.

The unit, which offers private and semi-private rooms, includes occupational, physical and speech therapy services.

The goal is to help patients gain enough independence that they can return home from the hospital, rather than be discharged to a nursing home, said Ms. Gustke.

"It's lovely, just lovely," said Marie Monti, 75, who was recovering from a broken hip. "It's so homey looking you don't feel you're in a hospital."

Mrs. Monti, who lives in Lansdowne with her granddaughter, had spent almost a week in the unit and expected to go home within a few days.

Spending those extra days recovering in the extended care facility sure beat hanging out in a hospital room, she said.

She particularly enjoyed having lunch and dinner in the group dining room, saying it was much more sociable than eating alone in her room everyday.

"It's nice having a meal like that," she said. "And the food's not bad."

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