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St. Luke’s investing $31 million to upgrade Sacred Heart Hospital

This spring when the new St. Luke’s Sacred Heart signs are installed outside the hospital, it will be an indication that exciting changes are underway at the century-old hospital campus in Allentown.

A year after joining St. Luke’s University Health Network, once-struggling Sacred Heart Hospital has undergone a $31-million upgrade that has revitalized numerous buildings’ patient floors, and strengthened and expanded health-care services.

“St. Luke’s standards are high and we want to bring this facility up to that standard,” said Frank Ford, president of St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus.

“Many areas of the hospital have taken on a new look. We want to honor the rich, 100-year tradition of Sacred Heart while moving boldly into the future with St. Luke’s,” Ford added.

Some of the major renovations included an expansion of inpatient Behavioral Health beds where $11 million was invested. Two new Behavioral Health floors were added and required major infrastructure changes.

Sacred Heart’s Behavioral Health capacity increased to 109 inpatient beds after 42 beds were transferred from St. Luke’s University Hospital, Bethlehem, where more room was needed for acute-care beds.

“It was a win-win for the Bethlehem and Sacred Heart hospitals, and a demonstration of St. Luke’s commitment to behavioral health to make this kind of investment in center city Allentown,” Ford said.

The Sigal Center, 450 Chew St., is undergoing a $4-million expansion to convert the 4,000-square-foot clinic into a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). The centers, which serve medically underserved, uninsured and underinsured populations, qualify for enhanced reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid and other benefits.

Primary Care, Pediatrics and Women’s Health will be expanded at the Sigal Center and will be operated under the brand name Star Wellness. Two of St. Luke’s clinics in Allentown will close and be consolidated in Sigal Center, including the Family Health and Pediatrics Practice, 1501 Lehigh St., and the Women’s Health Center, 1837 Linden St.

“This will be the largest clinic in our Network and will have enhanced services, social workers, financial counselors and better access to specialists and behavioral health care,” Ford said.

“FQHCs are the most comprehensive and effective model to deliver health care to the underserved,” Ford noted.

St. Luke’s Sacred Heart will open a Wound Care-Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center, which is being moved from St. Luke’s Allentown Campus, in 2020.

Other renovations completed include:

The Transitional Care unit, a 22-bed short-term rehab facility for patients discharged from the hospital.

Hallways and waiting rooms on the peri-operative floor.

The seventh floor in the Trexler Tower, a 32-bed acute care unit.

The fifth floor in the Trexler Tower was reopened after having been closed for several months.

The Emergency Department (ED) waiting room got a refreshed look with new paint, flooring and furniture. The ED is now staffed by St. Luke’s physicians.

About $1 million was spent to make significant upgrades to Sacred Heart’s infrastructure, including a new electrical system switching gear.

Plans are in progress at Sacred Heart’s Education Center and 240-seat auditorium. A major renovation includes new seating, flooring, lighting and state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. The center will host educational seminars and other events for St. Luke’s staff, physicians, residents, medical students and the community.

“We want St. Luke’s Sacred Heart to be a hub for the community. We will create a vibrant venue for community partners to work together to improve health care access for the residents of center city Allentown,” Ford said.

A major focus in St. Luke’s commitment to improving the health of the community will be on examining and addressing the social determinants of health, such as housing, employment, education and food.

“St. Luke’s can be a catalyst for transforming the inner city,” said Ford.

Other changes in progress include renovations to the Chew Street parking deck across the street from Sacred Heart. A roof is being installed on the top level and parking floors 1 and 2 will be refurbished. Parking is now free.

While many changes are visible inside Sacred Heart’s buildings, some less visible but no less important updates were made to infrastructure, including a new computer system. Soon after St. Luke’s acquired Sacred Heart, it converted the hospital’s electronic health records software system to Epic, the system used throughout the Network. The $10-million project was completed last June and Sacred Heart is now fully integrated.

“St. Luke’s mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve. We are now in center city Allentown. Considering the tremendous investment already made, you can expect only great things to come. I think the future looks very bright,” Ford said.

CONTRIBUTED IMAGESt. Luke's Sacred Heart campus, along Chew Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, Allentown. Copyright -