Monday, September 25, 2023 Sep 25, 2023
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By J. J. |

FORT WORTH-When driving around the hospital district, it’s virtually impossible to ignore the cranes, crews and construction at four of the city’s major health care facilities. Some people are probably questioning why, at a time when many hospitals can’t fill their beds, the building boom has hit the Met-roplex health care industry.

The answer has a lot to do with the hospital’s changing role. In the eyes of many administrators, providing quality care is good, but providing quality, economical care is better. Consumers, insurance companies and Medicare are demanding less costly services, which is exactly what health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are delivering.

Hospitals are responding by advertising more, updating their facilities and catering to couples who want designer-decorated birthing rooms. The “boutique” hospital, aimed at the discerning upper-middle-class consumer who can afford cosmetic surgery or other expensive operations, is just around the corner. Hence all the construction.

What’s happening to hospitals is similar to the scenario that airlines saw after deregulation. Hospital administrators such as Donald Loft us of St. Joseph Hospital believe that the changes are needed. “It’s appropriate to hold ourselves to the same standards as any other industry in terms of quality and cost,” he says. Consequently, the public now has a bigger voice than before when it comes to hospital services.

“We’re realizing now that we’re not just in the hospital business anymore,” says Stanley Hupfeld, president of All Saints Hospital. “We’re in the health care business.”

Evidence of this attitude change is easy to spot. All Saints has its Carter Rehabilitation Center and Moncrief Ambulatory Care Center. St. Joseph is centralizing its outpatient facility, condensing space and adding an atrium lobby. And Harris Hospital is spending $75 million to build an eight-story professional office building and the Sid W. Richardson Pavilion, a multilevel surgical tower that, upon completion in late 1985, will house 22 new surgical suites. A burn unit complete with surgical facilities and nine beds is included in the plans.

While the private and public hospitals are bracing for competition, John Peter Smith Hospital is preparing to meet the needs of indigent patients. “We’re picking up patients who would have gone into private hospitals five years ago,” says Tee Ann Seale, a public relations assistant at JPS. “Our neonatal intensive care unit has been operating at 100 percent capacity since 1982, and we’ve been hovering at 92 percent occupancy throughout the hospital for about five years.”

Although administrators at JPS are just as concerned with containing costs as other hospital officials are, Seale says that the hospital is not in a position to make the same kind of changes that are occurring elsewhere in the medical community.

Changes planned at the coun-ty hospital, to the tune of $49.5 million in general obligation bonds, include a primary care center, a modernized trauma center and a mental health unit.

Much has changed since the liberal Sixties and Seventies, when a minor injury or illness often sent patients running to the hospital. In some ways, the pendulum is swinging back to the days when people only went to the hospital to die, says Loftus. “I believe we’re swinging back to hospitalization only for those with acute illnesses.”

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