Carroll Hospital Center set to open expanded ER

Wide halls, private rooms among the improvements

December 07, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Inside Carroll Hospital Center's emergency department, supply carts and empty gurneys crowd narrow hallways. Monitoring devices take up half the floor space of the trauma rooms. During peak times, patients and their loved ones can't find a seat in the waiting room.

But on Wednesday, the department will move down a floor to a location with wider hallways, plenty of storage and private rooms equipped with monitors that consolidate the functions of several machines.

At 30,000 square feet, the new emergency department will be double the size of its predecessor - and it will have a spacious waiting room.

A year and a half after the hospital broke ground on an $80 million expansion project, its largest ever, the first part of the development's first phase - an emergency department and front entrance, lobby and gift shop - is ready for business.

"This has huge advantages over the previous department," said Dr. Chris Morrow, the associate director of the Westminster hospital's emergency department. "It's pretty big. We've got to get used to the size ... but our ability to handle the volume of patients is enhanced in this workspace. It is a big improvement for our personnel."

Acting like a tenant eager to leave an efficiency for a two-floor house, Morrow and the rest of the department's staff have started stocking supplies and medicine in their new digs. From late Tuesday until just before the crack of dawn on Wednesday, the staff will be shifting equipment, charts and supplies to the department's future home.

The two emergency rooms will function independently until about 6 a.m., when the current emergency department will start rerouting patients to the new facility.

"It's just so exciting that we're finally able to offer the community the services they've needed for so long," said Leslie R. Simmons, the hospital's vice president of patient care services.

The new emergency department has 37 rooms where doctors and nurses will treat injuries, make psychiatric evaluations, isolate people exposed to hazardous materials or with contagious infections and conduct private consultations with rape and sexual assault victims.

In the area where primary trauma victims are treated, the rooms will be regularly stocked with supplies in adjacent closets. Having supplies on hand will not only save time - and perhaps lives - but it also cuts down on clutter, said Simmons, a nurse with 26 years of experience in emergency rooms and critical care areas.

She said that the private rooms replace the thin pastel curtains that passed for privacy in the old department - a design that she said patients will appreciate.

The department will have new equipment, like an extendable "boom" positioned over a patient's bed in the trauma room that serves as a power center for such things as equipment outlets and lighting.

As part of the department's continuing shift toward paperless documentation, nurses can use either electronic tablets or laptop computers on carts that can be wheeled from room to room for bedside registration, said Beth Hooks, the emergency department's clinical manager.

Using a wireless network, the information collected by nurses - as well as the patients' status at any given time - will be accessible to the staff at several computer stations throughout the department.

When ground was broken for the expansion, the hospital launched Fulfilling the Promise, a campaign to raise $8 million in private money for the expansion. It exceeded the campaign and raised $9.7 million in gifts and pledges - the majority to be collected over a five-year period.

The hospital has collected about $2 million. The project is also being paid for through bonds and cash reserves. Hospital managers, directors and staff have pledged more than $470,000, exceeding previous employee campaigns by almost $400,000, according to hospital spokesman Mark Hoeflich.

Thursday night, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. attended a grand opening that filled the spacious new lobby.

When the hospital opened its doors 42 years ago, it had 50 beds and 125 employees. The hospital has grown through several expansions and upgrades in nearly every decade since. Today it has 172 beds and nearly 2,000 employees, including nearly 450 physicians and 457 nurses.

The last major expansion in the department was in 1995. Simmons said that the department outgrew its space almost as soon as it expanded. This time, she said, the hospital expansion is designed to be sufficient until 2020.

Hospital officials estimate the emergency department will have treated 50,000 patients this year.

Morrow said that the numbers have risen 10 percent to 15 percent every year for the last decade.

A four-story tower built atop the hospital's south wing for patient care is also part of the first phase. It will double the number of private medical and surgical rooms to 81 when it is at full capacity. One floor will be ready for use by the end of January, and the remaining floors will open in March.

The second phase of the largest building project in the institution's 40-year history is set to begin immediately after the completion of the first phase, said Teresa Fletcher, a hospital spokeswoman. It involves relocating programs such as cardiac rehabilitation and the hospital sleep lab to space now occupied by the emergency department.

It will also add specialized centers for wound care, diabetes and pulmonary rehabilitation, Fletcher said. Scheduled for completion by the end of next year, it will increase the total size of the hospital to 378,000 square feet.

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