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VOL. 128 | NO. 178 | Thursday, September 12, 2013

MED Burn Center Expansion Nearly Complete

By Michael Waddell

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The first phase of The Regional Medical Center at Memphis’ expansion plan is nearing completion, with the Firefighters Regional Burn Center set to double in size by the end of the year. The expansion will allow the hospital to better meet the demands of an increasing patient load.

(Daily News File/Brandon Dill)

“We are seeking to expand the scope of our burn referrals beyond our current numbers,” said Dr. Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO of The MED. “This expansion allows us to have a full complement of services for people in our community and our region that have unfortunately been involved with a serious burn.”

The MED recently received a $3 million grant from The Plough Foundation that will be used for the burn center to renovate the hospital’s existing Turner Tower to add to the upper floors a rehabilitation center dedicated to burn patients as well as outpatient office space, and to add a second operating room adjacent to the burn center’s lone operating room on the ground floor.

“We’re grateful that The Plough Foundation saw the value of investing in our burn center,” Coopwood said.

Last July, the MED board approved $32.4 million in capital improvements for the expansion of the Turner Tower Complex and the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center, and the new grant will offset some of that cost.

“The additional operating room means we can still see critical patients as they arrive while also being able to schedule reconstructive plastic surgery for our outpatients,” said Tammie Ritchey, vice president of development and MED Foundation executive director.

The Southeastern states served by The MED have the highest incidence of burns in the U.S. –with almost 50 percent of all burns in the country occurring in this area – and the hospital has seen a growing number of burn patients over the past several years.

“One reason is that there has been a decline in the number of burn surgeons and burn centers across the U.S.,” said Ritchey, who pointed out that there are no burn centers in Mississippi or Arkansas and that The MED’s is the only one in West Tennessee. “Many hospitals do not want to get into that industry because it is very costly and very hard work, as burn patients represent probably the most severe model of trauma.”

The Firefighters Regional Burn Center opened in 1985 and has grown to now treat more than 500 patients per year. Hospital officials expect that number to double next year after the expansion.

Burns are one of the most-challenging injuries to overcome and the most difficult for hospitals to treat, and burn patients require more staff contact than any other patient, averaging 20 hours of each 24-hour day.

“Burn victims stay at The MED longer than any other patients, and our 14 beds can quickly fill, particularly in the event of an industrial accident or mass casualty disaster,” Ritchey said. “As we started to see more patients and the complexity of cases changed, we knew we had to expand in order to improve survival rates and quality of life for patients once they go home.”

Burn patients also often require extensive follow-up outpatient care, and the center will now have a full rehab center on one of the tower’s upper floors.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, and the project is part of The MED’s plans to renovate and replace several of its aging buildings over the next eight to 10 years. Flintco Construction is the general contractor.

Other improvements completed in the past two years at The MED’s Downtown campus include streetscape improvements, parking lot additions, emergency department and waiting area renovations, security upgrades, new internal and external signage, conversion of all double bedrooms to single bedrooms, renovation and installation of robotics in the inpatient pharmacy, upgrades to the trauma treatment rooms, new roofing, the addition of a Starbucks coffee kiosk, and the completion of a new patient drop-off/pick-up area and main entrance to the hospital.

The Firefighters Regional Burn Center at The MED is the only burn treatment center of its kind within a 150-mile radius of Memphis, and it was recently recognized as the only burn facility in Tennessee to be certified by the American Burn Association (one of only 65 centers in the world) and the American College of Surgeons.

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