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  • Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Opens ‘Northern Lights’ Addition

Published on December 16, 2013

Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Opens ‘Northern Lights’ Addition

Avera Sacred Heart Hospital is bringing a new light on health care in the Yankton Region with the completion of the three-story “Northern Lights” addition.

When Avera Sacred Heart’s current hospital was built 31 years ago, the planning process at that time included discussion of building a new kitchen area. However, the decision was ultimately made to keep food preparation in the Benedictine Center located to the south of the hospital because Sister James Nursing Home was located in that facility, as well.

During the intervening years, the need to update the hospital’s kitchen was not forgotten.

“But it always took second place to the more clinical and technological projects,” said Pam Rezac, the president and CEO of ASHH. “The Sisters finally said it is time. We need to provide for that basic hospitality that our patients and staff deserve. Further impetus to do it was the fact that we need to replace the laboratory and build a new pharmacy. It became a multifaceted project.”

That decision led to what hospital officials coined the “Northern Lights” project. In addition to a new kitchen, the more than $17 million expansion includes a cafeteria, pharmacy, laboratory, physician amenities, sleep lab, environmental services space and meeting areas, among other things.

Located on the northwest corner of the existing hospital, the facility has many windows to allow in natural light — thus making the “Northern Lights” name appropriate.

“It has changed the entire north face of the hospital,” Rezac said. “The three-story, spacious facility lets in light and creates a warm and healing atmosphere. We created it based on a lot of input from the patients, families, staff and physicians. We wanted this project to prepare us for the future. It will be something the whole region will benefit from.”

“Initial projections figured it would take 24 months to complete, but the project was completed in a little more 17 months,” said Doug Ekeren, vice president of planning and development for ASHH.

He said the focus during planning for the project was what the institution could do to improve its hospitality services for patients, visitors, physicians and staff.

“The kitchen staff now can take food from the new kitchen directly up a new service elevator to the patients,” Ekeren said. “In addition, the new Northern Lights Café is a beautiful, calming environment for visitors and staff.”

“By moving over on to the north side of the hospital and building a new kitchen, we can be much more efficient with our use of staff and other resources. We can also make it a safer work environment for staff and provide better options for anyone coming through the cafeteria. We can be more responsive to food requests from patients because the kitchen will be in the same building.”

Besides the kitchen and cafeteria, another major component was the new pharmacy.

“The pharmacy and our biomedical services had been sharing space on the third floor of the hospital, and there really was only room for one of them,” Ekeren said. “With the growth that both have seen, it was a necessity to move the pharmacy to the third floor of the new addition, and biomedical services will expand into the former pharmacy space.”

Some other changes include:

  • With the laboratory move into the Northern Lights addition, the radiology department has the capacity to expand into the former lab space. The expansion of both of these departments will meet the growing regional demand for their services and improve patient safety.
  • In-patient physical, speech and occupational therapy services are now offered in the addition.
  • New amenities for physicians in the expansion include meeting rooms, dining facilities and more computer work stations.
  • Space has been created for a hospitalist — which is a physician who specializes in the delivery of comprehensive medical care to hospitalized patients. This program has already started at the hospital.
  • A support area will be created in anticipation of future internal medicine residents.
  • Finally, a new office area for patient care management was created as well as a Quality Department.

Despite all the added space at the hospital, Ekeren said an increase in employees is not anticipated at this time.

Rezac said she is excited about what the addition brings to the hospital and residents in this region.

“I think the Northern Lights project overall is going to provide a much more hospitable environment for patients and staff,” she said. “The services provided will be much more efficient and effective. We’ll be able to utilize technology that has not been available to us because of the space shortages in the pharmacy, the laboratory and the preparation of food. It will also offer space for facilitating the teamwork that is going to be necessary in our new system of care. We have to be more focused on a coordinated delivery system.”