Wednesday 14 Nov 2018

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“We Are Moving Forward” – CH CEO Lauds Progress

LtoR-Representative John Bell, CEO Luckey Welsh, Jr., and Deputy Secretary Dale Armstrong in the Lobby of the New Cherry Hospital.

L to R-Representative John Bell, CEO Luckey Welsh, Jr., and Deputy Secretary Dale Armstrong in the Lobby of the New Cherry Hospital.

NC Representative John Bell is keeping his promise about Cherry Hospital.

On Monday afternoon, Bell, Cherry Hospital CEO, Luckey Welsh, Jr., and Dale Armstrong, Deputy Secretary for Facility Based Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services, went on a private tour of the new facility that is still scheduled to open October 1st. Public tours are said to be scheduled for later dates.

With an emphasis on the positive, the private tour focused on the ‘what is’ and ‘what will be’ aspects of this beautifully designed state hospital. When asked how to explain the additional time since the last proposed opening date, Welsh replied: “Building and equipment,” then added, “We had a responsibility to make sure all safety systems were in place; not just the building and the equipment, but all systems, including the emergency response teams. We are moving everything under one roof and it’s been a matter of getting everything checked off.”

As the four in attendance made their way past the main lobby, Welsh pointed out the wall sign that reads, ‘A Place of Hope Care and Recovery’, as he told Representative Bell, “Today, we are moving forward.” The CEO pointed out the opening date was on schedule and said they are now working on a ‘punch list’ of items to be fixed or attended to. Bell said Secretary Brajer has been “very responsive and great to work with.” He said the Secretary sends answers to his questions immediately.

As we looked towards the area behind secure doors, Welsh said the corridor was “seven-elevenths of a mile” and the hospital encompassed 9.5 acres under one roof. That’s a stark contrast to the current hospital that is made up of several buildings across a large campus. Visitors to the new hospital can see the history of Cherry Hospital, and the influence of Dorothea Dix on the mental health system, by looking at a display in the main lobby. Welsh said they wanted to preserve the history of the hospital.

The new facility is divided into patient care on one side and administration on the other. The 26-bed units are identical from one building to the next, with the exception of the specialized units. They are comprised of Adolescents, Med-Psych/ and ICU for severe cases. Those units are typically smaller, but all units are state-of-the-art, hi-tech and well-designed.

Welsh said safety, one of the factors in the later opening, is first and foremost. “One thousand people have to be trained to do their job in a new facility. We set this up as a 90 day phase and we’re halfway there. We started with 12 weeks and we have 6 to go.” He said they would begin moving patients on September 27th. Bell asked, “That’s not as simple as loading them up and bringing them over is it?” Welsh said it’s a detailed and practiced process, with each patient assigned a caregiver in the process. He said they have practiced “mock moves”, and will actually have a complete mock operation on August 31st. Welsh further explained they would have 80 people acting like patients, adding, “This way, we think this is the way it works. Let’s see if it really does.”

Welsh emphasized the redesigning of every single procedure from feeding patients to transporting them. One significant design is no one is allowed beyond the lobby without an escort. He said everything under one roof means big changes, and despite the untold walk-throughs by the staff, they have found some things they’ve left out or needed to revisit.

It is in these details that make the facility so impressive. From pictures that have a calming effect on patients, but have the safety issue factored in, (all pictures are flexible, to eliminate the potential use as weapons, and they’re hung magnetically), to using natural light because, as Welsh said, “We’re letting in the light on mental illness.” Chairs in the facility are too heavy for a patient to pick up and throw, and anything that could possibly allow a patient to harm themselves has been thought through, and the risks are eliminated. Even the doors were specially designed with anti-ligature devices.

The Adolescent Unit, designed for the 12 to17-year-olds, allows patients to remain up-to-date in their education while receiving the care they need. With classrooms designed for science, math, computers, and more, Welsh said patients could theoretically graduate from Cherry.

When asked about his length of time in the mental health industry, Welsh said it’s been much longer on the hospital side. “I didn’t know as much about mental health as I thought I did. It’s a world of its own, and this industry and these patients deserve the best services available. And that’s what Cherry Hospital will be.”

During the tour, a stop was made at the lab, which was up and running, though not quite at full capacity. Lab Director, Deane Best, said she was excited and added, “Everyone has been working together to get this done. This is a web-based system, allowing the doctors to pull up results on their computers.”

The next part of the tour was of the “Treatment Mall”, where CEO Welsh told Bell, “Imagine 300 patients and 300 staff moving all around up here.” The focal point of action included treatment and group rooms, as well as basic amenities like a beauty parlor and barber shop. As Welsh pointed out, some patients are there for extended stays and, “you have to think about the day-to-day things.” The patients will also have a fitness center, large gymnasium with a giant, retractable screen, access to on-sight dental and medical care, including radiology, and a full-service kitchen designed to handle all diets.

Bell said, “So, when you open, you become a mini-city.” To which Welsh replied, “Exactly!”

The hospital will have 313 beds, compared to 197 in the current facility. A total of 373 new positions have been created, but all are not yet filled. Welsh and Bell both spoke of the necessity to recruit top quality employees and to be able to pay them competitively. The additional patients do create a staffing challenge, and Welsh said they know they have to market themselves to the same doctors and nurses that other top hospitals are going after. Representative Bell said this was an issue he and other legislators were aware of and focused on.

Even after walking across most of the nine-and-a-half-acres that sit under one roof, understanding the attention to detail that has had to go into this project is nearly impossible. But what was very easy to understand was this: the employees already in their new home are proud, and they’re happy, and the county is just six weeks away from getting a mental health facility that will bring the ‘Hope Care and Recovery’ that lobby sign promises.

And Representative John Bell held true to his promise.

CEO Welsh begins the tour.

CEO Welsh begins the tour.

A partial view of the gymnasium.

A partial view of the gymnasium.

The fitness room.

The fitness room.

Representative John Bell looks at the history display.

Representative John Bell looks at the history display.

An outside view of the outpatient clinic.

An outside view of the outpatient clinic.

Hope Care and Recovery.

Hope Care and Recovery.

Anti-ligature devices on the doors.

Anti-ligature devices on the doors.

The guest reception area. The doors to the left lead to the restricted area.

The guest reception area. The doors to the left lead to the restricted area.

A partial view of the lab.

A partial view of the lab.

L to R: Armstrong, Bell, Welsh and Lab Director Deane Best.

L to R: Armstrong, Bell, Welsh and Lab Director Deane Best.

Welsh explains the Bay and outside areas.

Welsh explains the Bay and outside areas.

One of the directional signs.

One of the directional signs.

One of the dental offices.

One of the dental offices.

Welsh shows Bell the area where patients are brought to the facility.

Welsh shows Bell the area where patients are brought to the facility.

One of the radiology rooms.

One of the radiology rooms.

A hallway in one of the wings.

A hallway in one of the wings.

A partial view of the massive kitchen.

A partial view of the massive kitchen.

A rare sight - pay phones. These will have free, direct links to services, and call also be used for outside, paid calls.

A rare sight – pay phones. These will have free, direct links to services, and call also be used for outside, paid calls.

CEO Welsh shows the unique wall art.

CEO Welsh shows the unique wall art.

Sign in the Adolescent Wing.

Sign in the Adolescent Wing.

A single patient room.

A single patient room.

2 Comments

  1. politics=different animals+same crap says:

    If completed on time, my dad may still be alive

    Reply
  2. Goldsboro citizen says:

    What are they going to do with the old Cherry Hospital? That’s a lot of unused space. It could be renovated and used as more room for the DART program.

    Reply

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