Memorial Hospital shows off the latest piece of its $318 million expansion project

Memorial Hospital shows off the latest piece of its $318 million expansion project

June 23rd, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Lisa Fitzsimmons, the service line administrator for surgical services, leads a tour of Memorial Hospital's new South Tower, part of a $300 million-plus expansion and renovation project that will bring the latest technology to the Chattanooga hospital.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

If You Go

The open house for Memorial's South Tower is from 1 to 4 p.m. today.

The hospital will provide a cardiac risk assessment, blood pressure and body mass index screenings and peripheral artery disease screenings.

Memorial's orthopedic surgeons will provide tours of the new operating rooms.

You can also attend three free classes: cardiac surgery at 1:30, controlling cardiac risk at 2:30, and wireless heart monitoring at 3:15.

The main bulbs in the operating room dimmed Friday afternoon, but a pair of lights persisted.

On the ceiling hung two neon rings, glowing and green. And from flat-screen monitors -- some on the walls, some on equipment, six in all -- a loop of nature scenes played. Here is a waterfall in a forest. Now here is another waterfall in another forest.

"When a patient rolls into the room," said Lisa McCluskey, Memorial Health Care System's vice president of marketing and communications, "this is what they see."

Soft music, meanwhile, hummed through the new South Tower Surgical Suite. If Sharper Image added an extra room to its store, a room where they happen to slice your chest open and tinker with your heart, this would be that room.

"We want the patient to have the best experience possible when they're rolling in," Lisa Fitzsimmons, the hospital's service-line administrator for surgical services, said during a tour Friday afternoon.

Anyone interested can get a similar tour today. From 1-4 p.m., you can check out the South Tower, with its new waiting rooms, operating rooms, cardiovascular intensive care unit and sterile processing center. The hospital also will offer free health screenings today and host three classes about your heart.

And next week, Memorial staff will begin to bring actual patients to these new rooms.

The South Tower is the latest piece of a $318 million expansion and renovation project at Memorial. The staff hopes the final addition -- a 300,000-square-foot North Tower -- will open in July 2014.

The South Tower is new and clean, for now. And the staff says much of the equipment is cutting edge. But other additions are aesthetic, and subtle.

During the design process, teams of architects, engineers, physicians, nurses, first assistants and many others met to discuss how the addition should look and feel. Now the waiting rooms have more space, and extra windows pull in more light.

The new ICU holds 18 rooms divided into nine pairs. Outside those rooms sit a desk and a computer for a nurse to use and two windows so the nurse can keep an eye on both patients.

In the past, the nurses gathered and worked at a central location in the ICU, which was away from the patients. Now they stay next to the patients.

"This design in critical care is really to push the nurse to the bedside," said Rhonda Poulson, director of critical care and emergency medical services. "This lowers your incidents of patient complaints, your falls. It really adds to patient safety."

And inside each of the 18 ICU rooms, an "equipment boom" hooks to the ceiling. The boom is wireless and swivels to wherever the staff needs it, and it holds all the equipment that used to sit against the wall next to a bed.

Now, with the boom, a bed can be in the middle of a room, and doctors and nurses can stand behind a patient if they need to, for whatever reason.

The South Tower also features eight new operating rooms, each about 75 percent bigger than the old ones. They will be used for cardiovascular surgery and orthopedic surgery.

In those rooms, the lights that float over a patient are LED lights, and they don't get hot or cast shadows when you lean in front of them. And in the middle of those lights are cameras that can send an image to a computer, which can send the image to those six monitors in the room.

But that's after the patient has gone to sleep, and the waterfalls on the screens cease.

Contact Tyler Jett at or 423-757-6476.