Perkins upgrade nearly complete $24 million renovation has taken three years

could add 120 jobs

February 25, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A $24 million project to upgrade the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a state psychiatric hospital in Jessup, is nearly complete and could lead to as many as 120 new jobs for Howard County.

With an April opening planned for two wards -- with 60 new beds -- all that remains in the three-year state project is renovation of the hospital's rehabilitation center and construction of a dining room and a warehouse.

When the project is finished in August, officials estimate, the hospital -- on Dorsey Run Road near Howard's border with Anne Arundel County -- will have 250 beds. It now has more than 180 patients.

"It really is a significant investment," said Ronald Hendler, the hospital's chief operating officer.

"And it will pay off in our ability to treat forensic psychiatric patients in a humane way and give them the ability to return to the community in a shorter time frame than in the past," he said.

Hospital officials also said that as many as 120 employees could be added to the 500-member staff.

The hiring could benefit health-care professionals facing cutbacks at other area hospitals, Hendler said.

"Managed care is forcing people who work in private practices to seek other forms of income," he said. "This will give people who would like to work with our patient population a great opportunity."

The new units will include large common areas for use by patients, smaller rooms for one-on-one sessions and offices on the same floor for staff psychiatrists and social workers.

"If they need immediate treatment, we have someone on the same floor as the patients," said Dr. Richard Fargala, the hospital's chief executive officer. "That, in our view, is a plus."

Perkins routinely provides pretrial evaluations of defendants to determine whether they are mentally competent to stand trial or are criminally responsible for felonies they are accused of committing, Hendler said.

The improvements at Perkins could reduce the funds needed to take care of patients, which now averages about $100,000 a year for each patient.

Fargala said renovations were begun in 1994 to maintain the center's standing with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, which reviews area hospitals every three years.

One of the first goals of the project was to demolish all of the hospital's oldest rooms and hallways, built when the hospital opened in 1960, which reminded Perkins officials of prisons.

Two of the center's 10 wards were razed and replaced in July 1995.

Two more replacement wards opened in December, and the final two will open in April.

Four old wards still will be in use.

A new conference center, multipurpose room and ambulatory medical clinic also were built, and new boilers and air conditioning units were installed.

During the project, patients were moved around among wards, Hendler said.

Only those who were progressing at a successful rate were transferred to other state hospitals, such as Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville and Crownsville Hospital Center, he said.

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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