Some health providers have struggled under the weight of the economy, coping with unpaid bills and people putting off surgeries. But Rush Oak Park Hospital says it’s bucking that trend, and is actually seeing increasing demand in several areas.

So, Rush is responding by spending $1.8 million to move and improve its same-day surgery area, where patients come before and after they have an operation that doesn’t require an overnight stay.

Bruce Elegant, president and CEO of Rush, estimates that the hospital has seen a 10 percent increase in patients who have same-day surgeries, and 7 percent increase for patients who stay overnight for surgery, compared to the previous year.

Elegant attributes the up tick partly to the high ratings Rush has received for knee-replacement surgeries.

Rush is moving its out-patient area – where people go before and after their surgeries – off the fourth floor of the hospital and onto the first floor, near its main entrance. The new section will include wireless Internet, TVs, space for families to visit and more privacy. Patients will no longer have to share rooms.

“It’s really very convenient for both patients and family,” said Elegant.

At the same time, Rush will also increase the size of its out-patient waiting area by about 30 percent. Rush is expecting more growth in visits, and will be able to accommodate some 5,500 patients a year, an increase over the current 5,000. The new area will have 24 rooms versus the current 16.

Elegant says the new out-patient area will also have warmer colors, better lighting and more convenience, as it is closer to the drop off area on Maple Avenue. Rush hired an interior design firm specializing in hospitals to help with the makeover.

Rush moved its billing offices off the first floor up to the second floor about six months ago to accommodate the change. It is completely gutting and rehabbing the space for the new $1.8 million ward.

“Our philosophy is that first-floor space ought to be dedicated to direct-patient care,” Elegant said.

Construction started about three weeks ago and is expected to wrap up by July 1. The current, fourth-floor out-patient area is still operating, and Elegant doesn’t anticipate any interruption in service.

Rush is also giving its employee and visitor cafeteria a “major facelift,” responding to requests from employees to fix it up. It’s investing $500,000 to modernize the eating area, adding new food cases, floors, lighting, etc. Elegant expects that work to start in the next two months and take another two moths to complete.

Both the cafeteria and same-day surgery ward haven’t been updated since they were built in 1970. Elegant says this is the largest remodeling project Rush has undertaken since 2008. That’s when it invested $750,000 to build out a new in-patient facility, for those who stay overnight, on the hospital’s third floor.


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