LDS Hospital creates identity as 'elite community' hospital
Health care • Grand reopening to unveil newly renovated "elite community hospital."
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Open-heart surgeries have given way to gastric bypasses. Newborn intensive care units to larger labor-and-delivery suites. Trauma services to disaster-preparation classrooms.

Five years after Intermountain Healthcare moved its flagship services from LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City to the then-new Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, the hospital has forged a new identity.

It will celebrate its grand re-opening Monday, though it never closed during its $32 million renovation.

"I tell people I felt like we were trying to change the tires of the car while we were going down the freeway at 55 miles per hour," said hospital administrator Jim Sheets. "It's taken us five years to get comfortable in our own skin and find out what our identity is."

He defines it as an "elite community hospital."

LDS Hospital has the bread-and-butter staples of general surgery, labor and delivery, and imaging. But it also has niche services that have expanded or were created after the number of hospital beds dropped from 450 to 212.

While organ transplants moved to Intermountain Medical Center, LDS Hospital kept and expanded its bone marrow clinic for patients with leukemia. That's also one reason it kept its larger 16-bed intensive care unit — to care for the severely ill bone marrow patients.

It added a weight-loss surgery program because it had extra operating rooms.

Labor and delivery rooms are double the original size to accommodate large family gatherings; they are more common among Polynesian and Latino families, Sheets said.

To compete with surrounding hospitals, including at the University of Utah and Salt Lake Regional, Sheets said LDS Hospital wants to excel in personalized care.

"With the exception of having a baby, no one wants to be here," he said. "People are not happy. They're vulnerable. They're scared."

The hospital now offers room service, writes thank-you cards to each patient and lets them check out laptops. It plans to roll out massages, manicures and pedicures next year.

The extra space also means more room for psychiatric services. The inpatient unit, mainly for people who are suicidal, added six beds for a total of 39. The unit is a regional center for Intermountain, treating patients from IMC, Alta View and Riverton hospitals.

It now includes a six-bed geriatric unit for patients ages 65 and older.

Mark Foote, a psychiatrist and medical director of the behavioral health center, said the geriatric unit can focus on problems common to aging, such as loss.

He said it also is doubling its medical detoxification unit to 12 beds. The unit mainly treats patients addicted to alcohol or pain pills, Foote said. "We recognize there's a big problem, and we need to have the access."

That also means Intermountain will expand its outpatient substance abuse treatment program, he said.

Noting that psychiatric patients account for one-quarter of LDS Hospital's admissions, Foote said the opening of IMC gave his department the opportunity to have a bigger role.

The hospital also converted the respiratory ICU rooms, which were oversized to accommodate ventilators and guests, into a new sleep lab for the Sleep Disorder Center, which treats patients for sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome.

The five rooms use Sleep Number beds to be more comfortable. The lab can also do sleep studies for patients in other parts of the hospital, such as those in heart failure.

According to its director and sleep medicine physician Robert Farney, the center pioneered screening psychiatric patients for sleep apnea, a breathing disorder.

Part of the need to expand sleep services is Utah's expanding waistline. Obesity is linked to sleep apnea because fat deposits around the upper airway can obstruct breathing.

"The numbers are greatly increasing, and probably the biggest factor is obesity," he said.

hmay@sltrib.com —

Going to the re-opening?

LDS Hospital's grand re-opening celebration runs from noon to 12:30 p.m. at the hospital lobby, 8th Ave. & C Street. After speeches, tours will be given. A new exhibit on the history of the hospital is also on display. —

About LDS Hospital

Built in 1905, it was originally called the William H. Groves LDS Hospital, named for the dentist and the church that donated money to build it.

It was built high in the Avenues because Groves had difficulty breathing and wanted to be above the soot from the coal burning industries and homes.

The hospital's new historical exhibit includes a bill from 1907 and newspaper clippings from when it opened, with pictures of patients smoking in their beds.