Towering effort: Two more floors open at St. Mary’s

Eric Mello, marketing manager at St. Mary’s Medical Center, leads an informal tour through the recently completed 12th floor of the patient tower of the Grand Junction hospital. The floor houses a rehabilitation unit. The 11th floor of the tower also was completed and will house a surgical nursing unit. Construction has begun on the 10th and ninth floors. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Eric Mello, marketing manager at St. Mary’s Medical Center, leads an informal tour through the recently completed 12th floor of the patient tower of the Grand Junction hospital. The floor houses a rehabilitation unit. The 11th floor of the tower also was completed and will house a surgical nursing unit. Construction has begun on the 10th and ninth floors. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

     Eric Mello leads an impromptu tour through the new rehabilitation unit at St. Mary’s Medical Center, pointing out various features as he walks and talks.

Small stations spaced along the hallways — one station for every two rooms — allow nurses and other staff to work closely to the patients for which they care, says Mello, marketing manager for the Grand Junction hospital. Those rooms, all of them private with large bathrooms, are fitted with mechanical lifts to help patients in and out of bed. Sofas and chairs transform into beds for family members who want to spend the night.

Two gymnasiums offer a variety of equipment for physical and occupational therapy. Specially designed suites include kitchens and dining areas and even a washer and dryer to help patients practice special techniques to ease their transition home, Mello says.

There’s yet another feature, though, that’s evident nearly every where, and that’s the views. The recently completed 12th floor of the patient tower at St. Mary’s affords an unmatched perspective of distant vistas of the Grand Mesa, Bookcliffs and Colorado National Monument as well as the Grand Valley spread out below.

John Kelley, a rehabilitation liaison at St. Mary’s, says state-of-the-art technology built into the new unit will help to rehabilitate patients more quickly, in turn shortening their hospital stay.

But so will the views, Kelly insists. “It just makes you feel peaceful.”

The completion of the 12th and 11th floors of the patient tower at St. Mary’s represents the latest phase in a massive project to expand and renovate the hospital. The 11th floor houses a nursing unit for patients who’ve undergone surgery and require extended care.

Construction has begun on finishing the 10th and ninth floors, the last of what were initially vacant floors when the patient tower was constructed. The 10th floor will house a medical unit, while the ninth floor will offer services to patients who’ve suffered trauma and strokes. The 10th and ninth floors should be completed by the fall of 2016, Mello says. The four floors will add a total of 118 patient rooms to the hospital.

At an estimated $65 million, work on the four floors will bring to $340 million the total cost of the so-called Century Project, one of the largest and most expensive in Grand Junction history.

Construction on the tower, along with other additions and renovations at the hospital, began in 2007 and was completed in January 2010. The top four floors of the tower were left vacant, however, until additional space for patient care was needed. Work on the top two floors began in 2013. The hospital was scheduled to start moving patients onto those floors Sept. 25, Mello says.

The 12th floor will accommodate patients from a rehabilitation unit that was located on the third floor of a portion of the hospital constructed in the 1950s. Kelley says the change will be like staying in a luxury hotel. “It will be like going to the Ritz-Carlton.”

The 11th floor will accommodate patients from a surgical unit that was located on the second floor of a portion of the hospital built in the 1990s.

Mello says the 12th and 11th floors were designed to improve patient care by keeping staff and various treatments and services within close proximity; promoting collaboration among various health care providers; and making families more comfortable and, consequently, more involved in the recovery process.

The new facilities also enable St. Mary’s to provide the services patients need in the Grand Valley rather than transport them to medical facilities in Denver or elsewhere.

In addition to adding to the services offered at what’s become a regional hub for health care, the ongoing work in the tower has had other economic benefits, Mello says.

About 120 people worked to complete the 12th and 11th floors, and a similarly sized crew will be needed to complete the 10th and ninth floors, Mello says. Out of all the work that could be completed on the project by Western Colorado contractors, abut 98 percent was, he adds.