Md. General to open $57 million expansion

New addition shows commitment to remaining in city

February 03, 2010|By Edward Gunts | ed.gunts@baltsun.com

Nearly 30 years ago, Maryland General Hospital was poised to move from Baltimore to Cockeysville - until then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer found out and challenged the plan that he feared would leave city residents without adequate options for health care.

Next week, hospital leaders will join new Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake to open a $57 million expansion - the largest and most expensive change since Maryland General shifted course to stay in the city and became part of the University of Maryland Medical System in 1999.

The expansion is a sign of the hospital's commitment to remain in the city on the west side of downtown and continue serving area residents. It contains new operating rooms and intensive-care rooms that replace outmoded facilities and is expected to help Maryland General, a 213-bed hospital, compete with nearby hospitals.

"This is ... a message that we're here to stay," said Sylvia Smith Johnson, the hospital's president and chief executive. "It will make a world of difference."

Mark Wasserman, senior vice president of external affairs for the University of Maryland Medical System, said "it required a yeoman's effort" to persuade the leadership of Maryland General to stay in the city. Wasserman worked for Schaefer when he opposed the move in the early 1980s.

"Today, the city benefits and the University of Maryland Medical System benefits from having a fine community hospital linked to an academic center," Wasserman said. "And there's more coming."

Administrators say the 92,500-square-foot expansion adds much-needed space and introduces modern equipment that will enhance patient care and allow Maryland General to perform more complex surgeries.

As designed by Hord Coplan Macht of Baltimore, the five-story project includes 15,534 square feet of renovated space and 77,000 square feet of new space. The entire hospital is bounded roughly by Howard, Madison and Eutaw streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a parcel that straddles Linden Avenue.

Features include eight new operating rooms, including one dedicated to ophthalmology; two dedicated endoscopy suites; one dedicated cystoscopy suite; a pre-surgical unit with 14 private patient rooms and two inpatient holding bays; and a post-anesthesia care unit with 20 recovery bays and two isolation rooms.

A new intensive-care unit of 18 rooms with ceiling-mounted equipment gives doctors and nurses better access to patients. There are also an updated pharmacy and laboratory, family waiting areas with private consultation rooms and elevators that improve the movement of patients through the hospital.

Maryland General officials said the expansion will help the hospital stay competitive with other institutions that are upgrading their facilities. The average size of the new operating rooms, for example, has doubled to about 600 square feet. Each operating room has "telemedicine" equipment that allows surgeries to be broadcast elsewhere while they're happening. Rooms in the new intensive-care unit also are double the size of existing ICU rooms being replaced.

"It's a tremendous leap forward," said Michael P. Lilly, chief of surgery at Maryland General.

All along, "we've been doing modern procedures," he said. "We do anything that any community hospital does, and we do it well. This will be a much better facility to work in. I think it will have an enormous impact."

Founded in 1881 as a training facility for medical students, Maryland General has the full-time equivalent of 1,300 employees and treats more than 100,000 patients a year, including 32,000 who come to the emergency room and about 12,000 patients who are admitted for overnight stays. Most live in West Baltimore.

In the early 1980s, administrators received state approval to move the hospital to land on Shawan Road just east of Interstate 83 in Cockeysville. But the Schaefer administration appealed the decision, saying it was poor public health policy and would limit options for care.

The Greater Baltimore Medical Center also appealed, saying a new hospital in Cockeysville would cut into its market. A Baltimore Circuit Court judge agreed in 1984 and denied permission for the move, saying neither the hospital nor the state had shown that Cockeysville needed a new hospital. Maryland General became affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System 15 years later.

Today, as a fully equipped community hospital affiliated with the larger medical system, Maryland General treats patients with a wide range of ailments, from gall bladder and colon problems to knee and hip replacements. For more complex procedures, such as organ transplants, it refers patients to the University of Maryland Medical Center on Greene Street, part of its system.

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