Minnesota Hospital Debuts Short-Stay Unit in Response to Capacity Issues

By HCO Staff

MAPLEWOOD, Minn.—Crowding and capacity constraints continue to stress hospitals nationwide as the number of patients seeking care increases, and the ability to discharge them to more appropriate levels of care decreases.

Emergency Department (ED) and inpatient medicine teams at M Health Fairview St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood have tirelessly confronted this challenge, facing a 5 percent rise in inpatient visits and a staggering 12 percent increase in ED visits since 2022. With limited capacity and space, and a commitment to improve patient care while visits are only expected to grow, teams at St. John’s devised a strategy for improving patient flow by expanding the emergency department, reorganizing existing services and — now — opening a new, purpose-built “short-stay and observation unit” to support newly developed workflows.

What sets this groundbreaking facility apart is the innovative construction method employed. Conventional construction posed further disruption to an already strained ED operating above capacity, so the teams at St. John’s embarked on a quest for innovative solutions. The breakthrough came in the form of a pre-fabrication technique in collaboration with construction firm The Boldt Company, and interdisciplinary design firm, HGA. The 16-bed unit was built to over 90 percent completion offsite in Appleton, Wisc., then seamlessly transported and installed on the St. John’s campus – the first of its kind in the state of Minnesota.

The short-stay and observation unit embodies M Health Fairview’s commitment to providing exceptional healthcare services by rethinking how teams work together to serve patients, no matter the circumstances.

“In the face of escalating patient visits, our ED and inpatient medicine teams have been proactive and innovative in their response,” said Will Nicholson, MD, vice president of medical affairs for M Health Fairview St. John’s, Woodwinds, and Bethesda hospitals. “This approach is a game-changer. It allows us to rapidly develop the needed space without impeding current operations.”

Construction of the unit began offsite in September. Crews delivered the prefabricated unit to St. John’s in late November, and teams then completed final construction and furnishing.

“We’re facing a very real need for patient bed space in our country right now.” said David Thomack, chief operating officer with Boldt. “Every day that is spent in planning, design or construction is another day that hospitals and patients must do without those beds. Using a modular approach, we’re delivering that space in half the time traditional construction would take, without sacrificing durability, quality or affordability, allowing healthcare providers to see patients months sooner.”