Rose Barachie sits on the edge of her bed in the newly expanded Next Step Acute Rehabilitation Center at the Gnaden Huetten campus of Blue Mountain Health System.

Barachie, of Franklin Township, was in the center recovering from knee replacement surgery. She's happy with the large therapy area, and with her private room, which features bright colors and a layout that allows her to do simple things on her own while still having the safety of medical staff close at hand.

"It's nice that I could come here first right after the operation to recuperate a little bit more than just being at home. This is a brand new room, and I'm the first one in here," she says. "It's nice that I'm in here by myself. There's a shower in there, and it's nice that I can use it myself, although I had help."

Barachie also liked that a sink was in the room, allowing her to brush her teeth while sitting in a wheelchair.

"It makes you independent quicker," she said.

The $200,000 expansion, begun July, increased the number of beds in the center from 16 to 20 and the number of private rooms from two to six, and enlarged the occupational and physical therapy rooms, said Program Director Renee Costenbader, MSN, CRRN.

The expansion was sorely needed.

"We were turning more and more patients away because we had no beds available," she said. "In the first six months of the year, we turned over 60 patients away because there weren't any beds available."

In light of the urgency, BMHS CEO Andrew Harris asked that the completion date be moved from November to September, in time for National Rehabilitation Awareness Week.

"We really want to serve the community," Costenbader said.

The project was paid for by Rehab Care of Louisville, Kentucky. Rehab Care has provided management services to the hospital for 13 years, Costenbader said.

"They have always seen the potential of this program – I've always called it the little engine that could," Costenbader said. She said the acute rehabilitation center is small, but "very it's successful. It has great outcomes."

The outcomes for patients in BMHS center compare favorably to "all rehab facilities across the country, big and small," Costenbader said.

"Our outcomes are just as good, if not better, with a shorter length of stay," she said.

The program serves patients recovering from strokes, orthopedic surgery, neurological problems, trauma, and some spinal cord injuries.

Rehab Care provided the seed money for the expansion because it saw that the program could serve more patients and grow, Costenbader said.

Patients are happy with the private rooms, which also help to cut down on infection. Further patients can have their families visit while maintaining their privacy.

The private rooms also reduce the need to move patients around to give male and female patients separate rooms.

Patient satisfaction, Costenbader said, is at 97 percent.

As Barachie continues her physical therapy, Richard Brode, 82, of Nesquehoning heads home after spending time in the center recovering from a fractured back.

Brode had been in the Acute Rehabilitation Center before it was expanded.

"They changed things around, and it's much better," he said.