For those planning to visit St. Clair Hospital for a COVID-19 vaccine or some other purpose, but haven’t been there for a few years, some changes will be evident.

Chief among those changes will be the presence of a new six-story outpatient center scheduled to open May 10.

“Even though this is a big building, it’s been designed in a way that’s very efficient for our patients, as well as for our physicians,” said Michael Flanagan, St. Clair Health senior vice president and chief operating officer.

“The patients can park underneath, get on the elevator on the third or fourth floor, take it right up to whatever floor where they are receiving services,” he said. “And it’s really ‘one-stop shopping’ from that point forward.”

Considering that the original hospital dates back to 1954, later undergoing expansion as property limitations would allow, today’s visitors often have to navigate somewhat complex paths to various destinations.

By contrast, the design of the Dunlap Family Outpatient Center, which straddles the Mt. Lebanon-Scott Township municipal line, emphasizes convenience for patients in a variety of facets.

James Collins, president and chief executive officer of St. Clair Health – the hospital’s parent organization – described what patients having surgery can expect at the outset.

“When you arrive, there’s a reception desk much like a hotel check-in,” he said. “While there’s a little lobby area, you’re not going to be there very long because you’re going to be assigned a room, and that is your room before surgery. You’ll come back to that room. You’ll come back to that room after surgery, and your family can wait there.”

Dr. John Sullivan, senior vice president and chief medical officer, explained the configuration of the center’s surgical area.

“The operating rooms are all around a core, where your instrumentation, both disposable and those that need to be reprocessed, are in the middle,” he said. “The flow of that is much easier to manage, and because of that, it’s easier to maintain all the principles of sterility and reprocessing instruments.”

Much of the center’s design focuses on implementing principles developed by the Mayo Clinic, with which St. Clair Health has a partnership, with an emphasis on multidisciplinary care.

Collins gave the example of a patient with prostate cancer who is seeing his urologist, and on the same floor of the building is an oncology practice.

“A medical oncologist can walk into the urologist’s office and they can go into the exam room together with you,” Collins said. “If the medical oncologist is going to give you chemotherapy and he’s concerned about the impact on your heart, there’s a cardiologist also on the floor.”

The Mayo Clinic’s new outpatient center in Florida was one of several destinations visited by St. Clair officials.

“One of the most helpful experiences was to go see other facilities that were just coming online and see how other people were designing similar types of facilities in different parts of the country, and taking into consideration different aspects of the patient experience,” Flanagan said. “I think we were really able to bring back the best of what we saw to incorporate within this facility.”

At Chicago’s NorthShore University HealthSystem, they noticed a Walgreens specialty pharmacy in the lobby. And so that became a feature of the Dunlap building, allowing patients to have prescriptions filled expediently.

“It often would be a skipped step, post-discharge, and people would start their medications late,” Sullivan said, noting stopping at a drug store may not be the top priority among many health-related considerations. “From a patient’s standpoint, those should all be integrated, and that’s certainly what we would like to achieve with this.”

The Dunlap Family Outpatient Center represents the keystone of a $152 million master site-plan investment for the 329-bed hospital’s campus. Helping the effort financially has been a capital campaign by the St. Clair Health Foundation.

“We are obviously very proud to serve the residents of the South Hills, but they’ve also given back to us in great ways,” Lindsay Meucci, vice president of marketing, communications and advocacy. said. “For our capital campaign, we had an original goal of $28 million. Thanks to their generosity, we were able to raise over $42 million.”

Collins pointed out that many of the donations are for smaller amounts, from people who “want to do something to help you because of what you did for me and for my family.”

“That’s been invaluable to this project,” he said.

Meanwhile, the project to some degree prompted the branding of St. Clair Health, which serves as the umbrella organization the hospital campus, current outpatient centers in Bethel Park and Peters Township, the fundraising St. Clair Health Foundation and a group of more than 150 primary and specialty care physicians and advanced practice providers.

“Achievements of that sort always cause you to reflect, and it’s obvious to us, as it is obvious to the community, this is a very different organization than it was when it was christened St. Clair Hospital 67 years ago,” Collins said.

“We are involved in all aspects of healthcare, but also in all aspects of health promotion,” he said. “We thought this was the right time to rebrand and to communicate not only where we’ve been but, more importantly, where we’re going.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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