Clovis Community Medical Center isn't the little hospital surrounded by orange trees anymore.
A new 90-foot, five-story bed tower looms as people exit Highway 168 on Temperance Avenue, and a bigger emergency department and new operating rooms are ready for patients.
Next Wednesday, if all goes as planned, hospital staff will transfer about 85 patients into the new private rooms in the tower -- equipped with technology geared toward increasing patient service -- and emergency patients will have twice the beds waiting for them.
The openings will ease the crunch for hospital beds and ER space that have been at a premium at the hospital -- and could have a trickle effect in reducing overcrowded emergency departments at Fresno hospitals.
The tower's 144 private rooms replace 109 beds now in semi-private rooms, and the hospital will have 24 intensive care beds instead of seven. The new emergency department has 25 private rooms, replacing 13 curtained bays.
The additional intensive care beds, coupled with seven operating rooms that opened Monday, will allow the hospital to treat more seriously ill patients.
"Clovis used to be a small hospital in the middle of a large metropolitan area and now it's stepping up and it's a large facility and going to be able to take on a lot more than it used to," said Daniel Lynch, director of Fresno County's Emergency Medical Services agency.
More beds in Clovis means fewer transfers to other hospitals, including to the busiest ER in the area -- Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno. The locally owned nonprofit Community Medical Centers owns the regional medical center, Fresno Heart & Surgical Center in northeast Fresno and Clovis Community.
"It's taking Clovis from kind of just an elective hospital (delivery of babies and elective surgeries) to being able to care for more acute patients -- handle more complicated surgeries," said Clovis Community CEO Craig Castro.
The bed tower, operating rooms and new emergency department are the latest milestones in the hospital's $300 million expansion. The additions include more labor and delivery rooms, an eight-bed neonatal-intensive care unit and eight new well-baby nursery beds, a new cafeteria and redesigned lobby that also will have grand openings Nov. 28.
Also relatively new is a 656-stall parking garage.
By the end of next year, when all construction and renovation is completed, the hospital's capacity will be 209 all-private rooms, including 60 devoted to women's and children's services, and 38 private emergency department rooms.
That's when there will be enough beds to meet patient need, Castro said.
The hospital's patient count has grown about 20% over the past five years. Today, it has an average of 94 patients a day. Six years ago, the average daily census was 70. The emergency department sees about 36,000 patients a year now, compared to 30,000 five years ago.
And the hospital annually did 7,000 surgeries five years ago, compared to 12,000 in 2012. As for babies, they keep coming -- from 100 deliveries a month five years ago to nearly 300 a month today.
"We've been in cramped quarters the last couple of years," Castro said.
On Tuesday, the cafeteria -- with a brick pizza oven and Hanford's Superior Dairy ice cream behind the coffee bar -- was part of a tour, along with the bed tower.
Castro praised both. The newly designed cafeteria has been a hit with employees, he said. "And when we combine that with the room service we've had (for patients), it really does make for a fine hotel."
The bed tower also makes Clovis Community the only full-service hospital in the area to have all-private rooms, Castro said.
Janet McQuillan, a medical-surgical advance practice nurse, beamed as she showed the new "get well network" -- a computer education and entertainment system that allows patients to watch educational videos, movies, check personal emails and order a meal on-call from the hospital kitchen.
Nurses also have special cellular phones they will carry to communicate directly with patients. Each room has a "smart" bed, which weighs the patient and includes a bed-exit alarm to alert nurses when someone is out of the bed, she said. "These are the things that are going to make it more efficient for the nurses and safer for the patients."
Expansion project history
2008: 22,500-square-foot outpatient facility add-on begins
2009: $20 million outpatient expansion completed
2010: Four-year, $285 million inpatient expansion and renovation begins
February 2012: New medical office building construction begins -- completion expected early 2013
September 2012: Health education conference center breaks ground
Nov. 28, 2012: Bed tower and other expansion areas to open
Fall 2013: Completion of project, including new physician offices, a new cardiac catheterization laboratory and a women's and infants' pavilion.