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A NEW Rehab Facility for Roanoke - Friendship Living

Written by  Rick Piester

Walk into Friendship Health’s new rehabilitation center in Southwest Roanoke County, and you’ll be hard pressed to know that you were entering a healthcare facility.  

The décor, furniture, the sunlit airy environment and soaring space speaks strongly of a premium hotel. Arched, timbered ceiling beams and comfortable seating arranged around a focal-point fireplace add a note of ski lodge. Friendly staff demeanor conveys a comfortable hospitality.

But it is indeed a healthcare facility. Its official name is Friendship Health — Rehab South, designed from the ground up to showcase all that the broad-based healthcare company has learned about taking care of people during a half century of service to the Roanoke Valley.

What is now the Friendship Retirement Community, the parent company, was established in 1966 and has worked to keep itself at the forefront of a nationwide discussion about how to best accommodate the needs of an aging, increasingly active population. The company has grown into a 20-building complex on what had been a pasture on Hershberger Road.

Currently, the company offers skilled and immediate nursing care, sub acute care, inpatient physical, speech and occupational rehabilitation, memory care, physiatry, and palliative care.

The inpatient rehabilitation center is the company’s initial major foray away from the Hershberger Road location, a decision made after market analysis showed a strong need for rehabilitation services in Southwest Roanoke County. The new location also allowed the company to shift its state-mandated bed limit to a location within the region that would address the changes in demand for levels of care for an aging population. For it to be able to offer 120 inpatient beds at Rehab South, the company was able to reduce the total number of beds on Hershberger Road by 120 beds, in effect donating beds to itself.

Size, scope and location

The new center is housed in a 73,000-square-foot, $13 million building at 5647 Starkey Road, near the intersection with Buck Mountain Road. Four 30-bed short-term patient wings make up the largest part of the building, with a large, state-of-the art rehabilitation gym at the center of the complex. Administrative and patient commons areas make up the rest of the complex, along with food preparation and support space. Plenty of visitor parking is at the front entrance to the new facility, with staff parking at the rear entrance of the building.

Before ink ever hit paper at architecture firm FreemanWhite of Charlotte, NC, a team of friendship health representatives spent two years determining exactly what the new facility would be, how it would be designed, and what equipment it would contain.

Extensive planning of the facility involved perspective from the community

Christi Nicely, Friendship Health executive director for outpatient and rehab services, took a lead role in investigating the design and content of the new facility’s rehabilitation gym. “We talked to everyone, people representing every group that would have an interest in the new rehab center,” she says. “We look at what our customers — patients — were saying about what they wanted. We spent lots of time talking with physicians — orthopaedists, surgeons, neurosurgeons, cardiologists, others — about what kinds of experiences they wanted their patients to have. We talked with people who were currently our patients at the time, and we looked at our competitors in the region to see what kinds of services were already being offered. Our architectural firm has very deep experience in designing buildings for healthcare, and we took advantage of their knowledge of where buildings for the healthcare industry will be in 10, 20 years. We wanted a building that would be at the top of its game in a decade, and not already outdated.”

Patient satisfaction a primary goal

Friendship-South administrator Jessica Walters says that a constant goal in the planning process was to provide a facility that would produce high ratings from patients with regard to their rehabilitation experience. “We wanted to be sure,” she says, “that we would do everything we could to capture high patient satisfaction — that patients would be glad that they came to us for rehabilitation.”

Walters notes, for example, that privacy in room accommodations was consistently high on the wish lists of current and prospective patients. As a result, all patient rooms at Friendship-South are one-person, private rooms, compared to the semi-private (two-person) rooms that are more the norm for the industry.

With research complete, ground for the new facility was broken in early August 2014, with the 18-month period of construction managed by Turner-Long Construction Company of Roanoke.

Grand opening this past May

With construction complete in April and certification by Medicare granted in May, patients began moving into the new facility in a phased-in fashion of about 30 beds at a time. “That way, “says administrator Walters, “we’ve not needed to move patients in en masse, with all the activity, confusion, and transfer trauma that would produce. We didn’t feel that would be the right thing to do from a patient perspective.” To ensure the highest patient satisfaction, she notes that the gradual move-in also provides more control in testing the new facility and smoothing out operational processes.

Services and Amenities of Friendship Health – Rehab South

  • A heated, aquatic therapy pool in the facility gym, with water temperature kept at a constant 92 degrees. This allows for warmer muscles that will stretch more easily and respond better to therapy sessions.
  • In the pool, an underwater treadmill that dramatically reduces the pull of gravity when people exercise.
  • Several protected, outdoor courtyards with family seating and fireplaces, along with graded and textured walking surfaces and a walking track.
  • Adjacent to the courtyards, two dining rooms (each dining room is shared by two wings.) Meals are prepared “from scratch”, eliminating heavy use of frozen preservative-rich and pre-processed food.
  • Height-adjustable dining room chairs for a more comfortable dining experience
  • In each wing, four patient rooms are outfitted to accommodate bariatric patients, people whose size and weight
  • One entire wing is equipped with in-wall oxygen, for people with a continuous need for supplemental oxygen
  • A fully functioning suite for activities of daily living, to help people regain the day-to-day skills they may have lost. In the three room suite (bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), patients will be able to relearn skills for bathing and meal preparation.
  • Barn-type sliding doors have replaced the conventional, wide-swinging doors in patient rooms. Anyone who has had to deal with the swing area required by a hinged door wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair will know the value of this innovation.
  • A Starbucks machine for coffee lovers.

The new facility is designed especially for people who need a short-term rehabilitation stay. Most patients will be at the facility from between seven and 14 days, with the longest stay of up to 30 days. Friendship officials, however, hope that they will soon be able to welcome people who qualify for outpatient rehabilitation.

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