COLUMBIA — Boone Hospital Center opened its new rehabilitation center Tuesday after spending $600,000 to add a new kitchen and dining area and upgrade rooms.
The hospital has spent the past five months remodeling its former psychiatric unit, which closed in July. The renovated space on the hospital's fourth floor was designed for rehabilitation services for stroke patients.
A number of the changes to the space were small but needed so stroke patients and others needing long-term therapy could practice everyday functions, said Donna Ware, the director of rehabilitation at Boone Hospital Center.
One change was to install lever doorknobs on closets and doors, replacing knobs that had to be turned, for example.
The new area includes a kitchen, dining room, fitness center and single rooms for 12 patients. The old rehabilitation unit lacked these amenities, and patients were taken to other parts of the hospital for physical therapy and meals, Ware said.
The larger space will allow patients to eat three meals a day and spend time together socializing outside their rooms, she said. They can also get help performing routine activities such as getting up and down from a sofa and maneuvering around their rooms independently in wheelchairs.
"They will do more than just therapy," Ware said. "They will learn to talk and enjoy other people."
Seven beds in the new facility will be filled Monday with existing patients, but the remaining rooms need to be certified. She said the hospital should be able to accept new patients by Jan. 1.
To qualify to live in the new facility, an in-care patient must be enrolled in at least two types of therapy — physical, speech or occupational, said Connie Lackland, a registered nurse in the rehabilitation unit.
When Lewis Baumgartner, a patient who comes into the hospital for speech therapy twice a week from Millersburg, had his first stroke, he was in the old rehabilitation unit for 44 days.
Cheryl Rohrbach, a close friend, said visiting him was difficult because of the size of his double room.
"We stood out in the hallway waiting to get in," Rohrbach said. The new facility allows more space for visitors.
Dan Rothery, the hospital's president, said the new unit will serve a growing demand in the 26 counties the hospital serves and perhaps beyond.
"It's neat. It's clean. It's bright. It's cheery," Rothery said of the space.