Health Care

Take a sneak peek inside Lexington Medical Center’s massive new patient tower

Find your baby in the new mural at Lexington Medical Center

4000 photos of babies born at Lexington Medical Center are integrated into a mural on display in the new maternity area at the hospital.
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4000 photos of babies born at Lexington Medical Center are integrated into a mural on display in the new maternity area at the hospital.

Lexington Medical Center’s new 545,000-square foot tower will treat the first patient in its modern, sun-drenched facility next week. But before then, there are still things to get done: sterilizing operating rooms, finishing IT setup, training hospital staff on where everything is in their new spaces and then the big task of moving everyone over. It’s the final push before the record-breaking project is open.

The tower, which is 12 floors tall, cost $400 million and is the largest hospital expansion in S.C. history based on approved cost and square footage, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Construction began in May 2016.

The new facility includes a cafeteria and kitchen, a “serenity garden” on the front patio, eight operating rooms (two for open-heart surgery), an expanded surgery recovery area and six floors for medical, critical care and surgical patients. The hospital performed 19,000 surgeries last year, spokesperson Jennifer Wilson said.

A new autopsy area and 71 inpatient beds were also added, as well as 15 triage assessment rooms. A parking garage with more than 950 parking spaces was also built.

A centerpiece of the expansion project, however, is a two-floor birth center that will house labor and delivery, an area for patients who come to the hospital in labor or need temporary evaluation, as well as six pre-birth rooms. A wall in the lobby of the mother and children suite has a mural of a baby, made up of more than 4,000 pictures of babies born at LMC through the years. The hospital collected the images for months while the building was under construction.

Delivery rooms were designed with feedback from hospital staff to make the experience more seamless for patients. The rooms come equipped with a sleeper sofa, rocking chair and reclining chair, as well as a media panel on which guests can control the flat screen TV and plug in headphones so as to not disturb mother and baby. Large windows in the delivery suites and throughout the new tower also allow more natural light into areas previously dominated by fluorescent lights.

The new birth center will also house a mother and baby unit, a newborn nursery, and private special care nurseries with 20 beds. The special care nurseries are private rooms for infants who need to stay at the hospital for additional care. Hospital administrators say LMC decided to build the individual rooms because of studied health benefits.

Research has shown that babies in fragile health gain weight more quickly, experience fewer infections and complications, and thrive more quickly when in secluded, controlled spaces with caregivers.

The private rooms also allow parents to stay at the hospital, close to their infant, for as long as they need to, said Mike Greeley, vice president of operations at the hospital.

The hospital tower — which will be the new North Tower — will “probably” create up to 200 jobs in the coming year, Greeley said. Those jobs will mostly be in food service, cleaning, respiratory therapy, transportation, as well as surgical and labor and delivery positions. Much of the staff from the hospital’s oldest units will be relocated into the new space.

An important feature of the new facility, administrators say, is the room to grow. The tenth floor of the tower can hold an additional 36 beds if needed, and there are additional unused spaces throughout that can later be filled.

The former birth center will become a renovated 17,000-square foot pharmacy department. The cardiac catheterization lab will also grow, Greeley said, and endoscopy will get new suites.

“Many ancillary and support departments are getting the space they deserve,” he said.

The hospital’s main entrance will remain the same, though the North Tower that houses it will be renamed East Tower.

LMC is the main hospital in Lexington County. It also serves patients from several other counties, including Bamberg, Barnwell, Fairfield, Lee, Marlboro, McCormick and Saluda, which no longer have hospitals.

Lexington Medical Center — an octopus of a health system that has satellite offices and physicians’ practices around Lexington County — has filled some of those gaps. From October 2016 to September 2017, the hospital reported 23,033 admissions. That included patients from Aiken (380), Fairfield (176), Kershaw (408), Newberry (503), Orangeburg (709), Richland (4,264) and Saluda (322) counties.

Doors to the hospital’s expansion will open Tuesday for patients and community members who want to see the baby mosaic on Tuesday, March 26. Visitors should enter through the main entrance.

Lexington Medical Center is located at 2720 Sunset Blvd. in West Columbia.

Correction, 11:47 a.m.: This story previously misstated the size of the new patient tower. The tower is 545,000 square feet.

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