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Psychiatric floor reopens at VA hospital

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

The acute psychiatric floor at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Administration Medical Center reopened Monday at its new location on the fifth floor of the hospital.

The ward stopped accepting new patients temporarily on July 24 while construction was completed to make the move from the fourth floor.

"It was under construction to update it, for safety purposes, to new standards set by the Veterans Administration," said Stan Frum, hospital spokesperson. "We wanted to make it an even more safe environment."

The newly reopened wing now has unbreakable glass in the windows and an enclosed sprinkler system, so the piping is not accessible by patients, according to Frum.

Another safety precaution added is secure entrances and exits that can be accessed by authorized personnel only, he added. Security cameras have also been installed in the commons areas, such as the dining hall and hallways.

"Basically all the hospitals need to do this because with time, standards change," Frum said. "We're trying to be proactive."

The renovations are part of the hospital's remodeling project which began in 1996, Frum said. A new wing was added in 1989 and the surgical and intensive care units vacated the fifth floor and moved to the new wing, which created some areas in the old building that were open for renovation, Frum said.

The sixth floor is undergoing construction to be a 30-bed long term care unit, he said.

The fourth floor, where the psychiatric wing used to be, is going to be redesigned for administrative offices, which currently are located on the first floor, he said.

Once all the construction is completed, services like physical therapy and prosthetics will be moved to the first floor, he said.

"It will be more user friendly when patients walk in. They won't have to go to different floors," Frum said.

The cost of the total renovation project is $4 million, with $1 million being spent on the psychiatric wing.

The psychiatric ward will accommodate six patients and can be expanded as the need arises, Frum said. Last year, 339 patients were admitted to the ward, he said.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or by e-mail at jbiller@exponent-telegram.com.

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