In a year where it didn’t seem like there was much to celebrate on a global scale, Fort Wayne came through again with another great addition to our city. Downtown already has amazing places to eat, shop, play, and congregate, and now we have a state-of the art hospital. On November 13, staff and patients of St. Joseph Hospital transferred to the brand new Lutheran Downtown Hospital next door and St. Joseph Hospital closed its doors for good. It was a changing of the guard as St. Joe, as many called it, was the first hospital in Fort Wayne. It was originally founded in 1869, only four years after the Civil War ended. The current building, which is slated for demolition beginning this year, was built in 1929.
Fort Wayne magazine talked with the hospital’s CEO, Twilla Lee and Lutheran Health Network’s Director of Communications, Megan Hubartt, about what this means to the downtown Fort Wayne community.
FWM: What is unique and different about the new Lutheran Downtown Hospital?
LDH: Lutheran Downtown Hospital is a modern, vibrant facility in the heart of the city. Lutheran Health Network has had a goal of remaining an active participant in downtown Fort Wayne’s growth and success, and Lutheran Downtown Hospital helps us meet that goal with the opportunity to grow alongside the community. The 194,000 square foot hospital, which was completed several months ahead of schedule, offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient services. Amenities include private patient rooms, a 19-room emergency department, four operating suites, three endoscopy suites, an intensive care unit, diagnostic imaging services, robotic-assisted surgery capabilities and laboratory services. One unique but mostly unseen feature we’re proud of is our interior loading dock. While this design was more costly upfront, it allows us to be a good neighbor by preventing trucks from blocking road access and limiting noise impacting our neighbors. The hospital was also engineered for sustainability goals, ensuring the new building would be significantly more efficient in the use of natural resources such as energy, water and raw materials.
FWM: Do you have any specific goals that you would like to meet in the first year of operation?
LDH: Our first goal was to provide excellence on day one with the very first patient at Lutheran Downtown Hospital. We have been engaged in many conversations with leadership, frontline staff and community members as we consider the most meaningful ways we can impact our community in the long-term. We plan to increase access to care for our patients by recruiting additional primary care providers and specialists to serve at Lutheran Downtown Hospital. We want to bring services that positively impact the community and to be a robust and active hospital that expands access to healthcare services mirroring the community’s needs.
FWM: What’s something we might not know about the new hospital?
LDH: One fun fact is that the new Downtown Cafe has been very busy. Obviously, the public is taking advantage of the new, healthy option for meals in the downtown area. Anyone looking for a quick, healthy lunch in the downtown area can take advantage of the delicious fare we offer (and they seem to be doing just that). We will also continue to increase services and access downtown as the need expands. The hospital was designed with the infrastructure to add a sixth floor, with more operating rooms, patient rooms, elevators and more as community needs increase. We are also in the process of renovating our medical office building across the street with completion slated for August, which will allow us to provide additional primary and specialty care outpatient access in that already-established location.
FWM: When will the old hospital come down and what will be in its place?
LDH: Deconstruction begins on St. Joseph Hospital in February and is expected to take 18 months. The space will be used for additional, nearby parking as well as greenspace the community can enjoy. We are still in the design phases for the old location space. The plan is to incorporate tasteful landscaping and seating areas throughout the lot to make it aesthetically pleasing.
FWM: Were there any major surprises along the way?
LDH: There were really no surprises. We are incredibly proud of the entire team’s hard work and all the planning that went into place to transition patients and services from St. Joseph to Lutheran Downtown Hospital. Every team member played an integral part and ensured the process went off without a hitch. We were also grateful for the assistance from our local EMS and public safety folks who helped make that transition extra safe and seamless for our patients and team.