NEW PORT RICHEY
The Beatles released four albums. The miniskirt made its debut. Cigarette packs got their first warning labels. A gallon of gas cost 31 cents. President Lyndon B. Johnson increased the number of troops in Vietnam by 50,000.
The year was 1965. And on Sept. 1, the West Pasco Hospital opened with 50 beds on Madison Street.
It looked more like an elementary school.
"It was a very small hospital," recalled County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, who was around when the hospital first opened and now serves on its board of directors. "Back in that time a lot of people went to Pinellas County for a hospital."
Today, the little country hospital that evolved into nonprofit Morton Plant North Bay Hospital is getting ready to unveil the biggest expansion in its nearly 45-year history.
The $49 million project nearly doubles the size of the current hospital, which continued to operate while construction was going on.
"It's like trying to change the engine of a 747 while you're in flight," said John Couris, the hospital's chief operating officer. He said that by doubling the hospital's size and upgrading to the latest technology, the expansion essentially creates a new hospital.
The expansion features a three-story, 56,000-square-foot Starkey Medical Tower, named because of the $1 million donation from the pioneer ranching family (Marsha Starkey also serves on the hospital board). The new wing adds private rooms, a critical care unit, cardiac care unit, a medical surgical unit, new respiratory care services and conference rooms.
The rooms look more like a resort than a treatment center, with faux hardwood vinyl floors, nougat colored walls and bathroom countertops typically seen in high-end homes.
Each room has a mirror on a wall that touches a window so that patients can easily see outside. A glass-framed print doubles as a dry erase board so patients can see who the nurse on-duty is, what the day's treatment includes and other information.
"Are you sure we can write on this?" one nurse asked.
Records are all electronic, and stations in the intensive care unit are decentralized so that nurses can stay close. Beds also are motorized so staff won't strain their backs moving patients.
"They practically drive themselves," said Shannon Hancock, the hospital's director of nursing.
Little touches, such as sink sensors that automatically shut off water and blinds that are enclosed in glass, also help in infection control.
The new 45,000-square-foot medical office houses outpatient care and offers expanded four-bed sleep disorders center, outpatient lab, outpatient rehabilitation services, and an enclosed connected walkway to the main hospital.
The additions were built using a method called "evidence-based design." That's the practice of building hospitals in ways that research has shown to help improve patient care and outcomes.
To make the new wings as user-friendly as possible, doctors, nurses and other staff were invited to come in and simulate care so items could be placed in the best possible spots.
Staff would put sticky notes in areas where they thought outlets should be, for example.
Outside, a retention pond is being surrounded by walking path.
Executives see the expansion not as keeping pace, but as positioning the hospital for the long term.
"Pasco County is a growing county," Couris said. "We have to be ready to serve the needs of the community."
North Bay committed to the major expansion after losing a bid nearly eight years ago to move its operations out of New Port Richey to Trinity. State officials gave the Trinity green light instead to HCA-owned Community Hospital, which has said it expects its new campus to open in 2011.
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.