Virtua Voorhees moving patients into its brand-new hospital Sunday

Items destined for the Women & Children's wing of the new Virtua Voorhees hospital were in the parking lot Thursday, a few days before the opening. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the rooms with natural light. Lush green and burgundy succulents fill rooftop gardens. And the cafeteria recently served broccoli rabe salad and portobello ravioli.

No wonder there's a waiting list for nurses wanting to work at the new Virtua Voorhees hospital.

The 368-bed hospital, which opens Sunday, offers perks to patients as well. All rooms are private. New mothers have more space for visitors and extra shelving for flowers. And patients order what they want, when they want it (provided they have no dietary restrictions).

"It gives the patient a sense of control in an environment where things are happening to them," said Michael S. Kotzen, vice president and chief operating officer at Virtua Voorhees.

The $463 million facility was built off Route 73, 31/2 miles from the current hospital site off Evesham Road. At 7 a.m. Sunday, the older facility, built in 1974, will cease to be a working hospital. Throughout the day, 24 ambulances will transfer 200 patients to the new site, which is three times larger. Voorhees EMTs will stay behind to redirect anyone who shows up looking for help, Kotzen said.

Ambulances will take patients one by one along three distinct routes, all of which only use right turns. The staggered loop of ambulances will transport a patient every two minutes, Kotzen said. The migration is expected to go into the afternoon.

The moving plan has been practiced from start to finish with "fake patients" twice, Kotzen said.

Some treatments will continue at the old site until an outpatient center is added to the 125-acre Voorhees campus next spring. These include the Summit Surgical Center, the Center for Women, Virtua Fox Chase Radiation Oncology, and Voorhees Sleep Centers.

Virtua's growth comes as other New Jersey hospitals have struggled, in large part because of the financial burden of uninsured patients. Since 2007, 10 acute-care hospitals have closed, said Kerry McKean Kelly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Forty acres of green space surrounds the new Virtua Voorhees, giving it a rural feel. The hallways and rooms are painted natural colors - sand, moss, clay, or cerulean blue - and the walls are decorated with photographs of leaves, flowers, and trees.

Virtua began planning a new Voorhees hospital in earnest in 2005. The hospital off Evesham Road was then 31 years old and could not be expanded easily, Kotzen said.

In January 2010, Virtua opened a $31 million wellness center in Washington Township, Gloucester County, that includes same-day surgery, a fitness center, and a spa. Another wellness center is planned for Moorestown, and construction is expected to begin in June, said Mike Burkhart, a spokesman for Virtua.

In 2008, the average New Jersey hospital was just breaking even, with an operating margin of two-tenths of 1 percent, according to a report from the association. That margin improved somewhat in 2009, up to 1.7 percent, after some of the more financially troubled hospitals closed, McKean Kelly said.

In 2008, Virtua reported an operating margin of 9 percent, and of 9.2 percent as of September 2009.

"In New Jersey, it's very refreshing to see a new hospital opening instead of a hospital closing," McKean Kelly said.

 


Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at 856-779-3237 or at jfarrell@phillynews.com