Surgical tape spanned a fresh scar on the knee that Angelina Romano of Irondequoit lifted up as she tapped her foot on a red ball.
Gripping the arms of a chair, Romano, 81, repeated the movement, while occupational therapist Rebecca Salyards spoke encouraging words.
They were sitting in the brand-new Wegman Transitional Care Center at St. Ann’s Community. The center provides a short-term home away from home for people rehabilitating from surgeries and major medical procedures.
The facility looks more like a hotel than a health-care center, what with common areas that have contemporary-styled furniture, flat-screen televisions, and granite-topped kitchen counters.
"I knew it was a new facility," Romano said. "I didn’t know anyone that had been in to the facility, but I felt this was where I wanted to come."
St. Ann’s Community in May celebrated the completion of a $75 million construction project that included a new building in Irondequoit housing the 72-bed Wegman Transitional Care Center and the 10-bed Leo Center for Caring. The project also comprised construction of St. Ann’s Care Center at Cherry Ridge in Webster, which houses 60 long-term-care beds and 12 short-term transitional care beds. The addition of skilled nursing to the Webster campus means the campus is able to offer independent living, assisted living, enhanced living, memory care, transitional care and skilled nursing on one campus.
"It’s turned out really great, and we are really pleased with the outcome," said Betty Mullin-DiProsa, president and CEO of St. Ann’s Community. "You don’t embark upon a large project like this without some trepidation."
The project began in October 2010 after St. Ann’s received word that it would receive a $17.6 million grant from the state Department of Health, in exchange for agreeing to reduce its nursing-home-care beds by 49. That reduction was estimated to save the state $3.2 million per year in Medicaid long-term-care expenses, and was aimed at helping to increase rehabilitation capacity so that people could recover better from surgeries and be sent home.
To make room for the new beds, St. Ann’s Community decided to empty the Heritage, a 203-bed high-rise facility on the Irondequoit campus and move residents to new buildings on the Irondequoit and Webster campuses. Mullin-DiProsa noted that staff worked as a team to move 100 people from the building in a single day.
"I’m so blessed to have the staff we have," Mullin-DiProsa said. "They did everything they could to make the transition for residents as smooth as possible."
The Heritage will be demolished later this summer, and the space will be used for parking. Mullin-DiProsa said St. Ann’s is still determining whether the building should be taken down brick by brick by crews, or whether it would be a good candidate for implosion.
In May St. Ann’s Community also launched the public phase of its capital campaign, having already raised $7.1 million from its board and other supporters. Wegman Family Charitable Foundation donated $1 million to name the Wegman Transitional Care Center at St. Ann’s, and Jim Leo, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Wegmans Food Markets and chairman of the capital campaign, and his wife, Kathleen, a St. Ann’s volunteer, donated $1 million to name the palliative care center.
"They believe the changes we are doing are needed and necessary," Mullin-DiProsa said.
The Leo Center for Caring, which is a partnership between St. Ann’s Community and Visiting Nurse Service, offers end-of-life care, and includes amenities to welcome families staying with loved ones who are terminally ill, including guest bathrooms and furniture that converts to beds.
It also features a separate entrance, and a quiet meditation room with a large stained glass window of Christ consoling an elderly woman.
"We wanted a prayerful space for people at the end of life," Mullin-DiProsa said.
Like the palliative center, the new Irondequoit and Webster facilities have features reminiscent of home. Enclosed porches also allow quiet space for patients to sit and read. Patients have private rooms and bathrooms that feature wheelchair-accessible showers. Patients’ rooms feature locked medicine cabinets to reduce medicine errors, and picture frames hide equipment for oxygen and tracheotomy suctioning.
Gone are the traditional nurses’ stations and meals brought to rooms on a tray. Food is served family style at tables in the dining room next to the country kitchens. Stovetops in the kitchens heat pans through induction, reducing the likelihood of burns.
In addition to making the facility more comfortable for patients, the changes are aimed at ensuring patients can cook and shower independently when they return home, Mullin-DiProsa noted.
An airy bistro offering everything from paninis to soft pretzels connects the Transitional Care Center with St. Ann’s Home, where kitchens are now also being installed.
The design of the new facility has been wonderful for both patients and staff, said Father Peter Bayer, chaplain.
"It helps with a sense of privacy because people are not right on top of each other — you don’t hear telephones," Father Bayer said. "It provides much more of opportunities of basically respecting the privacy and dignity of individuals."
Yet the best design in the world is secondary to how the staff treats the people in their care, Mullin-DiProsa said. All staff have been retrained on how to put a patient’s needs and desires at the center of their work.
"We focus a lot on training and make sure people understand our primary purpose for being here is to care for older adults," Mullin-DiProsa said. "If we don’t demonstrate our mission to care for older adults, we’re not going to have a job."
Romano said staff members have made her stay more pleasant.
"They care about what’s happening to you," she said.