Today the newly expanded acute rehabilitation center at St. Luke's University Hospital in Bethlehem will begin seeing patients following a four-month-long upgrade that will create more than 40 new jobs.
The $2.5-million renovation nearly doubled the number of patients the unit can accept from about 16 to 31 people and created about 43 jobs as the staff grew from about 42 to roughly 85 full-time, part-time and contract therapists, nurses and physicians.
"Previously, there was a more limited number of beds," said Dr. Robert Coni, director of medicine for the unit and chief of neurology at St. Luke's. "We knew that we had quite a number of patients that we couldn't accept because we didn't have beds available."
The rehabilitation is designed to help those who have experienced catastrophic illness or injury, such as stroke or Parkinson's disease, to relearn or develop skills to live as independently as possibly after leaving the hospital.
This is "an additional means of getting patients from the illness portion of their disorder to return to work and allows us more flexibility," Coni said. "In some cases [they were] going to competitors, but in many cases [they were] going to nursing homes and being there for a much longer period of time."
The intensive acute inpatient rehabilitation consists of at least three hours of therapy each day for five days a week and is a bridge from critical care to home care, allowing those able to work to begin vocational rehabilitation and return to their jobs in the future.
For those unable to work, the rehabilitation helps patients to live more independently at home on their own, allowing loved ones who took time off work as temporary primary care providers to return to their jobs.
"If it entails a family member taking care of an elderly person who doesn't work, for instance, it allows them to return to a more useful individual function earlier than they would going to [via] other routes," Coni said. "So it allows that family member to get back to work earlier off their FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) so they're not taking care of their mom or their elderly dad as much."