North Arundel unveils expanded ER

$8.5 million facility replaces cramped quarters

June 23, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

After caring for patients in cramped quarters for years, North Arundel Hospital has a new $8.5 million emergency department with twice the number of beds and new testing equipment to treat a patient caseload that has been growing steadily for more than a decade.

The 36-bed facility at the Glen Burnie hospital has a computerized tomography (CT) scanner for specialized X-rays, a decontamination room and a spacious waiting room decorated in peach and turquoise.

Susan Ward, the hospital vice president who oversaw the two-year project, said North Arundel originally planned to expand its old emergency room but opted to build a 28,000-square-foot facility instead.

Heavy caseload

"We just couldn't accommodate the number of people that were coming to the emergency room," said Ward.

In the past year, she said, the emergency department was frequently on red or yellow alert, meaning it couldn't accept cardiac patients or patients with life-threatening illnesses because of a lack of beds.

"We're projecting close to a 20 percent increase in business with the new emergency department," Ward said.

The hospital's emergency room, which was built to serve 35,000 patients a year, treated more than 56,000 last year, Ward said. Hospital officials expect to treat 61,000 patients this year. By 2004, hospital officials said, they expect the department to see 65,000 patients a year.

Ward said the hospital's caseload has increased for a number of reasons.

"We're at the intersection of two major highways, the population has grown tremendously, and we're also close to the airport, so we get a reasonable amount of business because of that," she said, referring to plane passengers who become ill in flight and must be taken to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The new emergency department, which treats between 180 and 200 patients a day, consists of three treatment areas with 12 examination rooms each. Rooms are separated by glass walls and have sliding glass doors instead of curtains.

One area is reserved for "fast track" patients, those with minor injuries or illnesses, such as sprains, broken bones or sore throats.

"The idea is to get a patient in and out in under an hour," Ward said.

Cardiac monitors

All treatment rooms have cardiac monitors.

Twenty percent of the North Arundel's emergency admissions are cardiac patients, hospital officials said.

The hospital spent $850,000 for a spiral CT scanner that will allow quicker examinations and clearer X-ray images. The scanner captures a three-dimensional, cross-section view of organs to identify tumors, blockages and hemorrhages.

The new machine will cut testing time in half, hospital officials said.

The new department also includes separate treatment areas to accommodate trauma, psychiatric, and obstetrics and gynecological patients.

Ward said North Arundel has a particularly busy psychiatric unit because it is the only private in-patient unit in the county. The psychiatric unit in the new emergency department, which does about 150 psychiatric evaluations a month, has three seclusion rooms.

The new department features a decontamination room designed to treat patients who have been exposed to hazardous chemicals. It has an outside entrance to avoid exposing other patients to contamination, Ward said.

Previously, the hospital treated possible contamination cases in a makeshift decontamination unit in the parking lot.

Two years ago, Ward said, 12 people who became sick after exposure to chemicals at the airport had to be disinfected in the parking lot in cold weather.

The new ER also has a children's play space in the waiting area and an adjacent flower garden with benches.

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