Chestnut Hill Hospital ready to open brand new emergency department

New things are happening at Chestnut Hill Hospital this year: a new CEO and a new wing that houses a state-of-the-art emergency room, intensive care unit, and operating rooms.

The new CEO is Dr. John Cacciamani, who came to CHH earlier this year from Temple University Hospital, where he served as chief of clinical operations and informatics. He is also a past president of the Philadelphia Medical Society.

At CHH, Cacciamani, 43, is not only the chief administrator, but a practicing physician, board-certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. That dual role accounts for, what he termed in a recent interview, a “phased-in” entrance to his new position.

Cacciamani officially assumed the top spot at the 164-bed community hospital in March, but still had to study for and take a recertification exam in geriatrics this spring.

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Physicians must take the exam every ten years to retain their board certification. “Thank God I passed,” he said with a smile.

Cacciamani appears to be juggling his duties well. Earlier this year, he was named one of the nation’s top 100 physician leaders of hospitals and health systems by Becker’s Hospital Review.

” I intend to be clinical – limited, don’t get me wrong – because it keeps you close,” noted Cacciamani. ” [As an administrator] you can have a disconnect from the practice of medicine. I know what’s significant not only by hearsay but by actual practice.”

’22 minutes from doctor to doctor’

The hospital where he’ll be working has just been named a “Top Performer” by the Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in America, for the second year in a row. Hospitals are judged on their achievements in treating heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care.

“Chestnut Hill Hospital is the only hospital in Philadelphia to be recognized two years in a row as a Top Performer,” said Cacciamani, and is one of only 244 hospitals nationwide that earned the distinction.

In its pursuit of earning that honor again, CHH will be aided by the new $40 million wing on the north side of its campus. The 60,000 square-foot addition, which officially opens this weekend, is home to a new emergency department, intensive care unit, and two operating rooms.

It’s a project that’s taken two years to build, but that’s been discussed in one form or another for more than 20.

Financing the project wasn’t possible until the then-independent hospital agreed to become part of Community Health Systems, one of the largest for-profit hospital systems in the country. The need for capital improvements was a major reason that an initially hesitant hospital board agreed to the seven-year deal in 2005.

The Tennessee-based company purchased CHH for $68 million.

‘We’re really proud of it,” said Cacciamani of the new additioin. “This is a community hospital and these features will improve convenience for the community.”

In the former emergency room, which dates back to the late 1950s, he said, ” there was bad lighting, no bathrooms, no place to park.” The space was also cramped.

The new wing has 23 separate examining rooms. “Our goal,” he said, “is 22 minutes from door to doctor… our fundamental mission is to do the right thing for every patient.”

A challenge on the horizon

Cacciamani sees more research comparing the outcomes of different treatments as vital to the goal of delivering healthcare efficiently.

An example he gave is the practice of doing cardiac catheterizations and stents for patients with lesions on their coronary arteries. “We spent many billions for decades on this,” he said. “In the beginning we thought we were saving lives.” But, he said, further research showed, “there’s nothing to support that this actually saved lives.”

Greater efficiency in delivering health care is something that Cacciamani sees as key for the practice of medicine in the coming years. He foresees a challenge coming unlike any before.

” Something that’s different this time is the baby boom,” he said. ” When that aging population hits [the healthcare system], with the economics of size and scale it entails, we will have much greater difficulty in dealing with inefficiencies in medicine.

We’re going to have a really difficult time in the next decade.”

Friday ribbon-cutting

With the new wing now ready to help meet the challenges ahead, the 700 employees of CHH will be welcoming the community this weekend to explore the new addition.

There will be an invite-only ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

On Saturday, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. , the hospital will host a Community Day, which will feature food, kids’ activities and entertainment, and tours of the new building.


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