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Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital looks to future with new $40 million building


April 7, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital, whose solid roots in the past have shaped a prosperous present, is now looking to the future.

"Right now, we are focusing on the development of a new hospital," Executive Director Pedro J. González revealed in a recent interview. The building, to be completed by 2010 at a cost of $40 million, will take up an undeveloped 1.5-acre parcel on the four-acre plot "El Presby" occupies in the heart of Condado.

Management believes its current financial position is strong enough to embark on such an ambitious project. González said the hospital expects to close its current fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005, with revenues of $52 million, compared with $49 million the previous year. Presbyterian ranked No. 143 in the Nov. 4, 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS list of the Top 400 locally owned companies.

González said the go-ahead for the project followed a re-evaluation of a $12 million expansion announced last year that called for the construction of a new wing. Based on the increasing demand for its services, management decided to scratch that plan and instead go with the new structure, which is currently in the design phase.

Ramón Morales of Fernando Irizarry Architects PSC, the architectural firm under contract with the hospital, said the new building is likely to be a five-to-six story structure that will probably house surgery and delivery rooms currently located in other sections of the hospital complex. The design phase, he said, should take about a year and a half to two years with construction likely to start in 2007. The new hospital will boost Presbyterian’s total number of beds from the present 207 to 275 or 300.

New investments

In tandem with its expansion plans, Presbyterian is laying out $5 million this year for the purchase of new equipment, possibly the "highest investment in equipment that we have made in recent years," said González. The hospital also is in the process of soliciting a permit for magnetic resonance imaging equipment that will represent an additional investment of $1.5 million.

Equipment purchases include a $500,000 gamma camera for the diagnostic detection of cardiac disease and cancer and a new computerized tomography scanner worth $800,000. In use already is an innovative lithotriptor unit used in eliminating urinary track stones that would otherwise require invasive surgery. González said this method of using shock waves to eliminate stones was already available in Puerto Rico, but this is a different kind of machine. Its cost was $200,000.

Since these investments are expected to increase traffic, the forthcoming expansion will give the hospital a greater capacity to meet the added influx of patients resulting from new and improved services. The new facility also will enable Presbyterian to address what it considers its greatest future challenge, which is to serve the needs of the island’s aging population. People in Puerto Rico are getting older and living longer.

By 2010, more than 40% of patients will be covered by Medicare, compared with the current 33%. "We want to be able to attend to the needs of a baby, but also those of a population segment that is growing older," González said.

A commitment to service

Service is paramount to Presbyterian, one of 55 general hospitals in Puerto Rico (another 14 hospitals on the island have different specialties). Though a generalist, Presbyterian has sought to develop core competencies in the areas of cardiology, maternity, and pediatrics.

More babies are born at El Presby than at any other hospital on the island, according to González. On average, it delivers 300 babies per month. Presbyterian was the first hospital to offer expectant mothers private birthing rooms to deliver their babies surrounded by family. In 2003, the hospital inaugurated its new neonatal intensive care unit, which has 18 beds because of the hospital’s high number of high-risk deliveries. The hospital also has pediatric and adult intensive care units.

In recent years, Presbyterian expanded its Emergency Room to 11,000 square feet to better serve adults and children. The emergency room is one of the most critical services for any hospital and, with around 3,000 visitors per month, Presbyterian has tried to make these visits less traumatic. For example, it appointed service representatives to meet with each patient and the relatives they come in with to soothe anxieties or offer whatever assistance necessary if the person is alone.

In keeping with its commitment to service and the community, the hospital set up a wellness and fitness center and regularly runs health fairs to educate the public. It also sends representatives to local schools to talk to kids about health issues such as drugs and obesity. Its Primary Health Care Center, which has helped decongest the Emergency Room, attends to some 1,000 patients per month on an ambulatory basis.

"Although the hospital sector has always been one in which profit margins are low, the backing of our patients permits us to continue evolving," said González. Of the 8,700 patients who pass through the hospital each month, most are from San Juan, with about 8% coming in from other municipalities like Guaynabo and Trujillo Alto. About 1% to 2% percent of patients fly in from other parts of the Caribbean.


Presbyterian is among the oldest hospitals in Puerto Rico, dating back to 1904 when it started operations out of three wooden buildings with 45 beds. In 1900, Dr. Milton J. Green, in charge of the Presbyterian Mission and its Santurce church, petitioned for a hospital to be set up; Dr. Grace Williams Atkins, the first woman doctor missionary at the Mission, pursued this request until it became a reality four years later. In 1946, Presbyterian Church transferred management of the hospital to a local board of trustees. It continued to run as a nonprofit organization and in 1958 became independent of the National Board of Missions, assuming the name of Presbyterian Community Hospital and receiving accreditation from the stateside Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations. In 1985, it adopted its present name, Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital.

Type of business: Acute-care general hospital

Headquarters: San Juan

Executive director: Pedro J. González

Employees: 740

Year founded: 1904

2004 Revenue: $49 million

Rank on Top 400 List: 143

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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