Howard hospital aims for 1997 opening of $900,000 pediatric wing Plans include emergency room, observation area

June 19, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

In a continuing effort to expand services for a booming community, Howard County General Hospital plans to open a $900,000 pediatric facility early next year, with its own emergency room, four-bed inpatient area and 23-hour observation area.

Plans for the pediatric facility come as the hospital opens its $12 million Center for Ambulatory Surgery, a 24,000-square-foot unit for outpatient testing and treatment.

"To be competitive, we think we need to serve the entire family," said hospital President Victor A. Broccolino.

He said he expects the unit to treat 6,000 children a year.

"We served the pediatric community for years, but not with a dedicated pediatric unit," he said.

No date has been set, but hospital officials hope to have the unit open during the first quarter of 1997. Construction could begin this summer.

Since the early 1990s, Maryland's community hospitals have been seeking ways to compete with less-expensive outpatient service facilities to which many patients have been directed by cost-conscious insurance companies.

With increased competition and a shift in the medical industry to shorter hospital stays, Howard County General's occupancy rate dropped from 81 percent in 1990 to 64 percent during the 1995 fiscal year, which ended last June.

During the first 11 months of this year, the hospital's occupancy rate rose to 67 percent.

The county has the fourth-highest birthrate in the state as of 1994 -- about 15.6 babies for every 1,000 people, according to the latest statistics from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"We need to be able to look after those children as they grow," said Jack Whiteside, chairman of the hospital's board of directors. "We need to have more pediatric care."

The pediatric facility would be on the north side of the hospital in west Columbia's Hickory Ridge village.

Broccolino said the pediatric facility probably would provide most of its treatment through emergency services.

But he believes the 23-hour observation area -- a unit designed for injured or ill children who don't need to stay in the hospital overnight but might need to be watched for several hours -- will be popular.

Pub Date: 6/19/96

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