Editor’s note: The first in a series on MidState Medical Center’s 20th anniversary.
MERIDEN — Built from the ground up, a new health care campus opened its doors to the community two decades ago this September, the product of an early 1990s merger between two separate, venerable city institutions.
The first new hospital built in Connecticut in more than a generation, the modern facility on Lewis Avenue featured a new name — MidState Medical Center — and represented a new approach to medicine, according to longtime chief executive officer Lucille Janatka.
When Janatka retired in December, she led the central region for the Hartford Healthcare Network. But her legacy dates back to the formation of MidState, which has undergone several expansions in the past 20 years, added patient beds, a LifeStar critical care helicopter hangar, and most recently saw the opening of the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute.
Janatka became chief executive officer when MidState was a year old and had a hand in many of the design features still present today — from the cascading wall of water in the front lobby to the use of light throughout the building to the private patient rooms. The design team of Perkins & Will implemented those details into the $70 million building to improve patient comfort and healing, she said.
“When you think about having a great experience, it’s about the culture that is created,” Janatka said during a recent interview. “Culture is something that needs constant care and feeding. When MidState opened 20 years ago, the culture is what has helped us grow.”
Patients and visitors walking through the corridors from Pavilion A to the maternity suite don’t see “backstage” hospital activity. There are no medical carts, or stretchers, or food carts. Much of that activity is reserved to behind the scenes areas on patient floors or in the northern part of the hospital. According to Janatka, Disney consultants worked with the design team on ways to separate onstage and backstage activity. The corridors of the hospital look more like an outpatient office space.
In 1996, MidState joined the Hartford Healthcare Network and is now integrated among its 18 entities. In 2013, MidState joined with the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain and Southington’s Bradley campus to form the network’s Central Region.
Gary Havican replaced Janatka as Central Region president and oversees the operations at the three hospitals. The move shares resources among the hospitals, such as a 34-bed psychiatric unit at New Britain, and the opening of the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute last year at MidState, a hospital within a hospital for bone surgery.
“Hospital integration has been increasing in Connecticut and across the country,” said Michele Sharp, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Hospital Association. “We expect this trend to continue. Patients benefit when hospitals develop new solutions to provide them with high quality, coordinated, cost-effective, patient-focused care. Integration is one way hospitals are addressing the needs of their patients and communities. Other measures include the building of integrated delivery networks with physicians, services, and technology.” Pressing need to grow
But MidState remains a community hospital, equipped to handle the needs of its patients in emergency care, radiation treatment, maternity and surgeries. It was first designed for 94 beds but officials quickly realized that wasn’t going to be enough, and its emergency room was woefully inadequate. To maintain service to the community, it had to grow fast.
” Our original hospital was built 20 years ago, we were built for 28,000 annual emergency visits,” Janatka said. “We ended up at over 60,000 visits. We had to increase our (emergency) facility to 53 private rooms, with expertise and a team that understands what the needs are.”
MidState embarked on an $18.7 million project to add 28 beds in 2002, and an additional $45 million expansion in 2007.
Today the 237,000-square-foot general hospital also incorporates outpatient services and medical offices. MidState and Hartford Hospital were the first healthcare centers to offer Mazor X robotic surgery in planning and performing spine surgeries. The emergency room, always challenged for space and speed, expanded and reorganized to minimize wait time.
Challenges and initiatives are discussed at the department level then escalated up to senior leadership.
“All the decision makers can be part of the process on how we can be more effective and a way we can have direct participation in a department,” Havican said. “MidState is a vibrant growing community of healthcare services and we will have created programs here that are second to none.”
Havican points to the orthopaedic center as a model that will be replicated in other disciplines throughout the network.
“It’s all about patient outcomes,” Havican said. “We are always looking at opportunities. We will continue to grow this campus. We are on a trajectory of growth and increased total capacity 55 percent year over year.”
The health care community and residents have come to value MidState’s place in Meriden and the region. Representatives from the hospital or the Central Region serve on committees in Meriden, Wallingford, Southington, and Cheshire.
“They’ve been a very good community partner through the years,” said David Lowell, vice president of Hunter’s Ambulance and a Meriden city councilor. “From the consolidation of east and west campuses into a single hospital and the growth, there have been a lot of challenges they have navigated successfully.”
Hartford Healthcare’s affiliation with Rushford at the former Veterans Memorial Medical Center site on Paddock Avenue has also proven to be a community resource as the region struggles with opioid addiction.
“They have the resources to bring to the community; neighborhood, addiction specialists and recovery coaches in the emergency rooms,” Lowell said. “They are very attentive to the community needs, and provide education for patients for health management issues. They offer a lot of education.”
Bringing LifeStar’s hangar to the MidState campus was also a strategic move that has improved emergency response times necessary to move critically ill patients, and ambulance service crews, Lowell said. The Life Star crew is stationed at MidState offering another level of emergency care on the ground or in the air.
“When they don’t fly, we go pick that crew up and take them in an ambulance (for) a patient that needs that level of care,” Lowell said. “It puts the staff that flies in the emergency room.”
Hartford Healthcare operates the helicopter service for the state and beyond. When it looked at the state and the runs the helicopters were making from Hartford Hospital, it made sense to relocate LifeStar to MidState, Janatka said.
“We found it increased our volume and the location has served us very well,” she said. The two other LifeStar hangars are at Baystate Hospital in Springfield, Mass. and Backus Hospital in Norwich.
The hospital collected $222,735,099 in total revenues, according to its 2017 annual report and reported $29 million in financial benefits to the community, including financial assistance, Medicaid, and community health improvement services.
“Four years ago HHC created a regional structure, and since then we have been on a path to improve the quality and coordination of care our patients receive,” according to a 2013 letter to Hartford HealthCare workers from Elliot Joseph, chief operation officer, and Jeffrey A. Flacks, chief operating officer. “We feel blessed to have such a reservoir of leadership to call upon as our organization matures and advances toward our vision.”