Hempfield facility highlights micro-hospital trend in Western Pa.
Touting fast health care in the heart of the community, Pennsylvania’s first “micro-hospital” will soon open in Hempfield as part of an industry trend to fill the middle ground between traditional hospitals and urgent care centers.
Located along Route 30, the 120,000-square-foot Allegheny Health Network building dubbed AHN Hempfield Neighborhood Hospital is slated to open this month, after final licensing is granted from the state Department of Health. The facility’s 55,000-square-foot cancer unit is scheduled to open in early January.
The hospital is the first of four planned in the region through a partnership between AHN and Emerus Holdings Inc., a Houston-based health care business. On Friday, community and state leaders gathered to celebrate the pending opening.
“We’re very happy to have them here in our neighborhood, especially one in this region and this part of Hempfield Township, where many folks who live in this community witnessed the closing of two hospitals,” said Doug Weimer, a township supervisor. “Bringing this type of care back to this area of Hempfield Township and the county was something that was greatly needed, and we’re very honored and proud to have them here.”
Emerus, which will manage the Hempfield facility, operates 24 facilities nationwide, including locations in Texas, Nevada, Washington and Oklahoma. Pennsylvania is part of a planned company push into the eastern U.S., said David Stillwell, regional president and executive president of operations for Emerus.
“I think the driving force is that you’ve got a lot of growing communities,” Stillwell said. “So, you think about Pittsburgh and the expanding suburban communities outside of Pittsburgh. When you think about the first line of care that any community needs are the emergencies that your family’s going to have and any resulting inpatient stays that would come from those emergencies.”
He added that, in a population of 1,000 people, there will be about 350 emergency visits per year. While the need for emergency departments is high, the need for a 100-bed hospital in smaller communities is not, Stillwell said.
That theory was proven over the past decade when two full hospitals closed and were demolished in the area that is now home to AHN Hempfield.
Monsour Medical Center, previously located along Route 30 in Jeannette, closed in 2006 after failing state inspections. It was demolished in 2016.
Jeannette Memorial District Hospital, which was opened in 1959 by the Sisters of Charity, was razed a year earlier.
Three years ago, micro-hospitals started taking the stage in Denver after Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System partnered with Emerus to open two in Colorado. By 2018, similar mini hospitals opened in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Texas. Each is different, based on the needs of the community.
According to Stillwell, Emerus officials work to determine if a surgical unit is necessary along with the types of primary care options the hospital should offer.
The Hempfield location has no operating room or helicopter pad. But patients will be able to consult with specialists for neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, thoracic surgery, cardiology, general and breast surgery and women’s subspecialities.
“There’s a lot of times with a lot of patients that come into the emergency room that those patients don’t need surgery,” said Julie Ference, AHN Neighborhood Hospital chief nursing officer. “But our physicians here are all emergency board certified. … It doesn’t guarantee that you’re not going to go to the big-city hospital, but the first stop here and making sure surgery is something you need, we’re going to be able to handle that and then get the patient where they need to go.”
Instead of surgery, the main goal of the micro-hospital is to focus on the emergency department, with inpatient beds available. On the other end, discharging patients and keeping visits short and efficient is a top priority.
A patient who checks in will be seen by a doctor within five minutes, Stillwell said. He added that a typical visit to the emergency room could take up to an hour and a half, compared to longer wait times at a regular hospital.
Those times, Stillwell said, boil down to a hospital design that is centered around nursing needs.
“After about our fifth facility, … we took a pause and we said let’s measure everything in the building and see what’s most efficient,” he said. “So we asked ourselves, ‘What room do nurses go to the most often?’”
He added, “If you think about a room that’s 25 extra steps (away) and you think about those 25 extra steps over 100 patients a day, that’s time,” he said. “So, we were doing everything we could to make the building as efficient as it could be.”
Those factors led to inpatients rooms and the emergency department on the bottom floor of the Hempfield hospital, separated into two hallways with nursing stations on each side. Between are CT, or computed tomography, scans and X-ray rooms, along with a pharmacy for easy access. Primary care options are located on the second floor.
The new micro-hospital will feature an emergency department, a 10-bed inpatient unit, diagnostic imaging, a laboratory, cancer unit and other complementary medical services.
The development is part of a massive $700 million expansion plan by AHN that includes three more neighborhood hospitals under construction in McCandless, which is slated for a ribbon cutting ceremony Dec. 12; Brentwood, which will open by the end of the year; and Harmar, which will open next year. AHN also plans a 160-bed, state-of-the-art hospital in Pine along with renovations to its existing facilities throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Cancer units also are being built in Monroeville, Erie, Butler and Beaver County. In all, the new locations will bring between 80 and 90 jobs, AHN officials have said.
“Just being able to come to the hospital where you live and see the people that are your friends and neighbors, knowing that they’re the ones that are going to take care of you, that automatically is going to ease the anxiety that you as a patient have when you come into the hospital or into the emergency room,” Ference said. “To see that friendly face, you already know you’re going to be taken care of.”
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .