This Critical Care Operation is Worth Watching

April 23, 2024
Columbus, Ga.-based Piedmont Columbus Regional spoke with Healthcare Purchasing News about its expansion plans for its ICU

Founded in 1836, Piedmont Columbus Regional is a healthcare provider in west Georgia serving the Columbus, Ga. area with a network of health and medical services through its two hospital campuses. Piedmont Columbus Regional joined the Piedmont system on March 1, 2018.

Located in Columbus, Georgia and serving  patients from 21 surrounding counties, the Midtown Campus is a 583-bed tertiary care hospital providing an array of services to meet the medical needs of the diverse community, including oncology services at the John B. Amos Cancer Center and the Family Medicine Residency Program at Midtown which was the first of its kind in Georgia in 1972 and is one of the first in the southeastern United States.

According to a March 14, 2023, press release, Piedmont Columbus Regional announced its Midtown Campus will undergo a renovation and expansion over the next two years to increase its ICU capacity.

The press release states that “The 99,038 square foot project, which was designed by Earl Swensson Associates and is being built by Brasfield & Gorrie, will include 43 new ICU beds along with a renovated 15-bed nursing unit. Construction is tentatively set to be completed in March 2026.”

Healthcare Purchasing News had the opportunity to speak with chief medical officer Christopher Edwards, M.D., critical care director Cindy Kinney, and Piedmont Fayette CEO Steve Porter about this massive project, other initiatives, and the future of Piedmont Columbus Regional.

Are there any current initiatives (other than the expansion) in critical care that Piedmont Columbus Regional is working on?

Edwards: In Columbus, we are working on our new free standing pediatric facility, the Bill and Olivia Amos Children’s Hospital. This will include pediatric critical care beds staffed by pediatric intensive care specialist physicians.

In general, what are the biggest challenges in the critical care space? How are organizations solving these challenges? 

Edwards: As in all areas of healthcare, there are challenges with staffing. Critical care requires specialized training for physicians, nurses, and other levels of staff as the patients are the sickest of the sick with complicated medical problems. Fortunately, we are rebounding from the critical staffing challenges that were the result of the COVID pandemic. 

Regarding the expansion, can you please share with us how this project came to be? I see there was a need to increase ICU capacity. Can you expand on that? 

Edwards: It became apparent during COVID that we needed more ICU space in order to manage surges during crises like the pandemic. But even during “normal” times our ICU at Piedmont Columbus Regional Midtown is typically full, and at times we are holding ICU patients in the Emergency Department. We needed to do what we could to eliminate the need to hold our admitted critical care patients in the ED. We feel this expansion of ICU beds will accomplish this goal. 

I see there will be a renovation as well as an expansion. What is being renovated? 

Edwards: The entire ICU will be renovated; we are not just adding beds. At the end of the project, every ICU room will have been increased in size and completely redone. From a size standpoint, each room will be 2.5 times larger than the current rooms which will allow for a better space for patients, family, and staff. In addition, we are renovating and adding additional medical/surgical beds. 

How will this new project benefit the community? 

Edwards: The project will ensure that our community will have the most up-to-date ICU environment in the event of a critical care need. And by adding beds, we are helping to ensure we have the capacity to provide critical care locally at all times. 

Are you using any new technologies in this space right now?

Kinney: The Real-Time Locating System (RTLS) is one of our newest technologies. Because our ICUs are currently located on three different floors, finding ICU equipment can be a challenge. The RTLS system allows us to tag our ICU devices and track their locations using the RTLS web-based software. It’s a quick and efficient way to locate equipment.

What is in store for Piedmont Columbus Regional over the next 5-10 years? 

Edwards: We are focused on patient safety and quality of care. If we provide the highest quality and safest care, our system will continue to thrive. Our goal is zero harm by 2026. We also want to provide the best access and patient experience for our communities. So for the next 5 to 10 years, we will focus on continuous improvement in these areas. 

Anything else you’d like to share about critical care in your organization/the renovation and expansion?

Kinney: Because the physical design of the unit heavily impacts staff workflow, accessibility to equipment and supplies, and communication practices, feedback was sought from members of the ICU team early in the construction process. Their involvement helped to ensure that highly frequented areas like the storage, medication, and supply rooms were appropriately located and that telephones, computers, and the telemetry monitoring stations could be easily accessed by the staff. In the patient rooms, they provided input on the bed-ventilator-IV pump locations, configuration of the headwall, room lighting, and the type of patient lift system that would fit our needs. Our goal was to provide our staff and patients with the best ICU environment possible.

I recently saw that the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recognized the Critical Care Unit at Piedmont Fayette with the silver-level Beacon Award for Excellence. Any comments on this achievement?

Porter: Earning the silver level Beacon Award for the second time demonstrates Piedmont’s commitment to consistently providing quality care. Our patients and our community can be confident in our critical care teams when they are needed the most.

About the Author

Janette Wider | Editor-in-Chief

Janette Wider is Editor-in-Chief for Healthcare Purchasing News.