Ohio County Healthcare is continuing with its years-long growth strategy.

This autumn, OCH should break ground on a $16 million surgical department — a price that includes $4 million in new equipment — that will double the hospital’s operating room space and provide enough square footage for future robotic surgeries.

Construction is expected to begin in spring and should take about 18 months to complete.

To pave the way for that larger project, OCH will begin with a $500,000 project to move the hospital’s four-bed intensive care unit into a suite of high-acuity negative-pressure rooms.

“It will give us the capability to better care for our COVID-19 patients in a safe environment,” CEO Blaine Pieper said.

Also, the existing ICU unit is in a part of the hospital that needs to be vacated for construction of the new, expanded surgical department.

Pieper expects construction on the new high-acuity suite to start within 30 days and take up to three months to complete. By the end of the year, the new negative-pressure rooms should be in use.

Buying propertyIn the past few months, OCH bought more parcels adjacent to its property in Hartford. One will provide additional parking space for employees and the surgical department expansion.

A home, at 311 McMurtry St., will give OCH more office space, and it offers direct access to the hospital’s campus from another property purchased earlier this year at 1132 Clay St.

Homes on two of the parcels will give the health system space to relocate employee offices that must move during the construction phase. Those buildings also can be used for education and other purposes.

The former surgical unit will become a space for support services, provider practices, and expanded lab and X-ray services.

The new suite will provide an additional operating room and procedure room.

Operating rooms will be large enough to accommodate robotic surgery equipment. The current rooms are not large enough, Pieper said.

Thirty years ago, OCH performed from 50 and 75 surgeries per month, he said.

Currently, the health system performs from 300 and 350 a month. Most of that growth has been in the past decade, Pieper said.

“We’ve known for probably close to 10 years that we are going to have to replace our OR,” he said. “We’ve been working on it the last few years.”

OCH enjoys lots of support from local agencies, Pieper said.

For example, Ohio Fiscal Court leases land to the health system and helps OCH receive funding for projects. The county’s elected leaders understand the importance of a viable health system to residents and the local economy, he said.

“Also, our hospital board has been extremely committed to growing and meeting the needs of our community,” Pieper said.

Trial drugLast year, OCH was one of only four hospitals nationwide certified to administer Zulresso, a new drug to treat postpartum depression.

It is estimated one in nine women who give birth suffer from postpartum depression, a severe form of clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth. Hormonal changes, stress and a history of depression are among the causes.

Dr. Elizabeth Ottman practices obstetrics and gynecology in Owensboro and contracts with OCH to provide gynecological services. Ottman is the medical director for OCH’s Zulresso program.

She treats at least 50 women a year for postpartum depression.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Zulresso in March 2019. OCH started treating patients with the drug last autumn.

“This is the only drug specifically for postpartum depression,” Ottman said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. ... It’s the first thing I’ve ever seen that is miraculous when it comes to postpartum depression.”

She has used Zulresso to treat four women since August. The patients came from Indiana, Paducah, Owensboro and Louisville. Two of them were suicidal, Ottman said.

All four patients were treated successfully. They left OCH taking either no medication or only medications they used prior to pregnancy.

Patients report improvements within hours of treatment, and the drug remains effective at one-month post-treatment visits, Ottman said.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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