This is the year that Project 2012, a $250 million undertaking to modernize facilities under the Susquehanna Health umbrella, fully bloomed.
Petals on this flower have been peeled back for the community to see slowly over the past six years as bits and pieces were completed and revealed.
Updates, renovations and additions were made to facilities at its main campus in the city, along with Divine Providence Hospital and Muncy Valley Hospital facilities.
Along the way, the city campus grew to become Williamsport Regional Medical Center, where a new Susquehanna Tower was completed and opened this year.
The tower holds a new Joint and Spine Center with progressive care unit, emergency department and imaging services, surgical services, The Birthplace, and an education and conference center.
The overall project also included a two-story 1,800-square foot expansion that enlarged the Center for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and more room for long-term care patients to visit privately with family at Muncy Valley Hospital. Renovations to the Susquehanna Health Cancer Center at Divine Providence Hospital, an affiliation with Laurel Health System, and "healing art" at all the campuses also were highlights.
In Susquehanna Tower, the progressive care unit has 28 beds for cardiac monitoring on the sixth floor. The surgical suite has new equipment for open-heart procedures. The imaging department on the main floor allows for X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs.
It also provides for an updated emergency department. The health system's old emergency department had outgrown its abilities to treat the volume of patients seen annually, according to Dr. Geralda Xavier, senior vice president and chief medical officer.
The new department replaces 17 curtained bays with 38 private treatment rooms. The new facility was designed to treat up to 60,000 patients a year.
The former emergency department was designed to treat about 32,000 to 33,000 people annually, said Dr. George Manchester, senior vice president and chief medical officer.
On average, the emergency department has been treating between 46,000 to 47,000 people annually.
How best to treat the patient is the focus, Xavier said. Improving the time it takes for someone visiting the emergency room to be treated and released is a goal.
"More rooms allow us to get people through triage," Manchester said, referring to the process of having a patient be greeted and provide minimal information about their ailments upon arrival. Nurses take patients into the triage area, where more comprehensive patient evaluations are done.
"We don't want people in the waiting room," Manchester said. "We can't treat in the waiting room."
By having private rooms rather than curtained rooms, patient confidentiality increased, Manchester said.
At the end of March, the new joint replacement and spine center, as well as the therapy gym, opened to help patients recover from their surgery faster.
The new center is "patient oriented" and set up to allow patients to go home sooner, said Sue Everett, administrative director of outpatient rehabilitation and sports medicine.
When patients arrive at the hospital, they have their operation and then immediately go to the joint unit.
"Later that day, they have their first physical therapy session," Everett said.
"They're mobilized that day," said Lori Beucler, administrative director of perioperative services.
Their first full day, they are up early to use the centrally located therapy gym where activities replicate what the patient will need to do at home. That may include getting in and out of a car and a bed, cooking in a kitchen and taking a bath.
All of the joint replacement patients work in the gym together, including total knee and hip replacements. Patients can range from younger people in their 40s or 50s to a 100-year-old with a fractured total joint replacement, Everett said.
With so many people working together, they encourage each other by competing against each other in a "social aspect," she said.
"They're not going by it themselves," Everett said.
A patient must be able to walk 300 feet before they can go home. The goal for a hip replacement release is two days and three days for a knee replacement. That has decreased from an average stay of five days over the past few years. In the 1970s, it took two weeks.
"The medicine is better in general," Beucler said. "The care before surgery is more effective."
Comfort also has been considered with the department's renovations. Patients are given private rooms that have family zones for visitors and a place for loved ones to sleep, chairs that enable them to spend more time out of bed, nearby nurses' stations for quick assistance and amenities such as private bathrooms, Internet access and flatscreen televisions.
A new Birthplace
More than 1,200 babies are born each year at The Birthplace in Susquehanna Health. In June, the new maternity unit opened in Susquehanna Tower, said Patsy Miller, manager of patient care in The Birthplace.
New changes included six private labor and delivery rooms and 17 postpartum rooms. They feature a flat-screen television and mini-fridge, in addition to a computer terminal for nurses.
Each room has a family zone area and a support person is encouraged to stay in the room around the clock to help care for the new baby and assist the mom. The couch in each postpartum room pulls out into a bed.
There are two nurseries, which can house up to 20 babies. The newborn nursery has 15 beds and the remaining beds are in the Level II nursery for babies born from 32 weeks' gestation or more or full-term babies who need specialized care.
Having a positive Birthplace center is important because it sets the tone for the future, Miller said.
"Birthplace helps drive business throughout the hospital," she said. "It's the front door for lots of young families from start to finish."
Another new feature is a large waiting room so people can feel more comfortable until they hear the birth announcement.
In 2010, Susquehanna Health put out a call to local artists to promote the power of healing through their artwork.
Throughout the health system facilities are paintings, photographs, ceramic tiles and sculptures. The artwork is intended to help reduce stress, enhance patient care and reduce a patient's stay in the hospital.
The works of more than 70 local artists are displayed throughout Susquehanna Tower.
The artwork selected had to be inspirational, healing or reflective of the health system's mission of extending God's healing love by improving the health of those it serves.
The Cancer Center at Divine Providence Hospital was the first area expanded and renovatd as part of Project 2012.
To accommodate patients who might want to socialize during their chemotherapy or might prefer privacy, a mix of private and open bays were designed.
The open bays face a wall entirely made of glass that looks out on a healing garden.
"It's gorgeous," said Michele Gaida, administrative director of the cancer center. "It's a really nice thing to look at before and after treatment."
Comfort also was kept in mind with 20 new chemotherapy chairs that provide heat and massages. A patient donated money for music therapy, so patients can listen to satellite radio stations while in the chemotherapy room, Gaida said.
Visual therapy also surrounds the patients on the ceiling and walls with the artwork design.
The cancer center also now has a state-of-the-art accelerator that targets radiation so precisely it can significantly reduce the side effects from treatment.
Community education and oncology programming may be given in a 50-seat conference center.
Project 2012, which finished this year, certainly did not start this year.
Previous to it, Williamsport Regional Medical Center, Muncy Valley Hospital and Divine Providence Hospital facilities had not received major updates for nearly 20 years.
The question became whether to update the buildings or create a new complex outside of the city.
A new location would have cost about $305 million. Renovations would cost about $230 million, but would be more complicated because the then Williamsport Hospital was landlocked by residential neighborhoods.
It required a community commitment that went beyond hospital walls and required the support of the city and the business community, including an expanded institutional zone.
In October 2005, Susquehanna Health's board announced its decision to continue as a city-based regional health system.
Once the city rezoned areas designating land in which the project could take place, Susquehanna Health identified 105 properties needed to build the tower. Purchases began in 2006. The last house was demolished Dec. 28, 2010.
Since then, the health system agreed to provide space within its institutional zone for a new city YMCA. It is in the process of acquiring and razing the final properties to provide for that purpose.