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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Fletcher Allen Seeks Approval To Plan New Inpatient Unit

AP/Toby Talbot

Big plans are being considered at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. The hospital has applied for a Certificate of Need to spend $3.7 million on detailed planning and design work for a new building that could have four stories and include up to 128 single patient rooms.

The hospital needs the approval of the Green Mountain Care Board just to spend the money on the design phase. If they decide to move forward and build the project, they’ll need separate approval.

Dave Keelty, director of facilities planning and development for Fletcher Allen Health Care.

The hospital recently completed a major construction project in 2005. Keelty says that project was an update to outpatient and ambulatory care facilities and allowed the consolidation of the medical group practices housed at other locations to be on the same site.

“We’re planning inpatient bed replacement, not adding beds, replacing some of the beds we have in our oldest buildings,” he said.

And while critics may point to single patient beds as a luxury in an era of rising health costs, Keelty disagrees.

“Currently, we are at 42 percent of what I would call single rooms. That creates a number of issues for us. Doubling up patients within a room makes it difficult to bring treatment and diagnostic equipment to the bedside. It makes our efforts to control hospital-acquired infection more difficult. It creates obvious gender management issues. And issues surrounding providing access to the family to the patient rooms,” he explained.

Keelty says when you have two patients and family members in a room at the current hospital situation it can make it difficult to maintain privacy.

“You can hear everything in the room,” Keelty acknowledged. And that makes it difficult to comply with HIPPA, health information privacy laws.

Keelty says a lot of the feedback the hospital gets from patients includes complaints about noise.

If the Certificate of Need is approved the planning process will take 9 to 12 months. The planning will look at conceptual designs, architectural plans and cost estimates.

Keelty says they’ll be working with the University of Vermont and hospital neighbors, and city officials to keep them informed.

“At the end of the planning, we would be in a position to have schematic designs completed, have a basic site plan completed and would be able to start the preliminary permitting process.”

They’ll also have the cost figures and that will serve as the basis for an actual building project, should the hospital decide to move forward.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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