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Health center commended in state inspection

| Monday, Aug. 26, 2002

Alvin W. Allison Jr. wants people to know what the Washington County Health Center is not.

"We're definitely not an old county home," said Allison, health center administrator "People are amazed at what they see we offer once they visit us."

The state Department of Health apparently believes the center has much for which to be proud. A recent state inspection and survey resulted in a commendation.

Inspectors conducted an unannounced check Aug. 5-9 and gave the 25-year-old Chartiers Township facility the best rating it has received in years.

The county-owned center, a sprawling brick building, is located at 36 Old Hickory Ridge Road, on a hillside near the Washington County Fairgrounds.

"We're real proud of what we offer here, and we're pleased that the Department of Health agreed," Allison said.

The center opened in 1977. Prior to that, the county had separate nursing care facilities for men and women.

Today, the health center features 300 beds. The west wing opened in January, 2000. As of last week, the facility was home to 254 residents.

There are 50 beds for people who need short-term care. The remaining 250 beds are residential units for those in need of long-term care.

The center features an Alzheimer's disease unit and offers rehabilitation and other services to residents.

Allison said the staff strives to make the center a "home" for residents.

"For many of our residents, this is their final home and we want them to feel like they are at home," Allison said. " ... To many of us, the residents quickly become a part of our extended families."

The state inspectors recognized the staff, level of care, activities, meal preparation, cleanliness and such special services as the restorative nursing program.

The restorative nurses work with residents who have suffered strokes, injuries and other physical problems.

The wound care team was praised after the inspectors found a low number of incidents involving bed sores.

"The surveyors actually asked if our staff would teach some hospitals (staff members) how to keep patients from getting bed sores," Allison said.

Last week, county commissioners John P. Bevec, Diana L. Irey and J. Bracken Burns Sr. praised the staff and, in particular, Allison.

Allison, who arrived in 2000, was recognized for improving overall operation.

He's quick, however, to recognize the 307 full- and part-time workers.

"It's a tough job that requires a lot, physically and emotionally," Allison said. "But it's also one where you can go home at the end of the day and know you made a difference in someone's life."

The inspectors indicated they received favorable responses about the staff and the center while interviewing residents and residents' family members.

County Human Services Director George Krcelich praised Allison.

"He's really made a difference there, and it's evident in the excellent care that is provided," Krcelich said.

Plans are in the works to give the health center a face-lift, said Allison, noting the facility's interior is starting to "show its age."

The center will receive new furnishings for resident rooms, an updated color scheme and will undergo 1 South Unit renovations.

1 South Unit is used for residents with behavioral problems.

Allison said the wing will be expanded because of increased numbers of elderly people with behavioral problems, those who are confused and those who tend to wander.

"We want these residents to be in a safe and secure place, where they will have space to walk freely, without being in danger to themselves," he said.

The renovations likely will not begin until next year.

In the meantime, Allison said activities are being planned to promote the center.

"We're one of Washington County's best kept secrets," he said. "Many people comment that they never knew what that big brick building was."

The health center hosts several community events each year, and recently attracted 400 people to a classic car cruise.

On Oct. 19, it will host a craft show.

"The residents love these events," Allison said. "They really feel like they're still a part of the community."

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