Preparing for the Worst

Oct. 20-26, 2005
Preparing for the Worst
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
UTICA — There’s excitement in the air at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in these days. Preparation for the construction of a new emergency room and trauma center is underway. In addition to the new emergency room and trauma center, the project includes construction of a new kitchen and cafeteria. The $13 million project has been designed to better serve the community.

“The number of patients visiting the emergency room has been steadily increasing over the last several years,” noted Sister M. Johanna DeLelys, OSF, president and CEO. “In 2004 we had 22,636 patient visits, and this year so far we have seen almost a 20 percent increase. Replacing our 30-year-old emergency room is part of our effort to be both patient-focused and attentive to our role as the community’s level II trauma center. Our emergency and trauma care, first and foremost, focuses on better serving the patient and the community.”

Effective immediately, a new temporary emergency room entrance in the rear of St. Elizabeth Medical Center will accommodate patients arriving by ambulance and car during the various construction phases of the project.

In addition, during the weeks of Oct. 17 and 24, emergency room traffic will be diverted from the emergency driveway to the main driveway leading to the parking garage. Traffic guards will direct emergency room traffic around the parking garage to the rear of the facility while site work is performed on the upper portion of the emergency driveway. Temporary diversions may also occur during other phases of the construction project.

The construction of the new emergency room and trauma center will complete the third phase of a multi-year expansion project that the sisters and staff embarked on in 1999 to upgrade and reconfigure space and services — including a 52,000 square foot addition housing a 16-bed intensive care unit, 10 operating rooms and an outpatient surgery center. Some renovations included modernizing medical-surgical patient wings, a new and expanded pediatric unit, increased parking space and a new boiler facility.

Robert Scholefield, RN, vice president of nursing at the center, is pleased about the new project. “It’s long overdue, and I can’t wait until it’s done,” remarked Scholefield. “It’s very exciting for the community and it’s great for the medical center. The emergency room needs to have the same modernization as the recently renovated third and fourth floors of the hospital.”

The nursing staff, architects, team of physicians, trauma staff and Scholefield designed the plans for the new project. “When we got the approval, we sat down with a blank piece of paper and asked ourselves, ‘What is it we are going to build?’” said Scholefield. “We drafted numerous plans and decided on this one. The staff is ecstatic. The idea of working in a new modern environment is one that any employee would enjoy.”

When emergency department nurse manager Anna Giannico heard about the plans for the new emergency room and trauma center she thought it was “absolutely wonderful.” “When we designed the plan, we went on some road trips to look at some other emergency rooms,” said Giannico. “We went to Albany, New York City and Baltimore. We asked the staff what they had done that they liked when they designed their emergency rooms and what they would have done differently. We incorporated all that information into the plan for our emergency room. We’re very proud of this plan. We’re all excited and happy to see this day coming.”

The new emergency room and trauma center will nearly double in size, providing patients with larger and separate triage areas for walk-in patients and those arriving by ambulance. The plan is to significantly reduce long waits for urgent care patients — those with such ailments as flu symptoms and sprains and who compete for attention with patients with life-threatening injuries, especially in the evening and on weekends when doctors’ offices are closed. The goal is to have urgent care patients in and out in an hour.

The new layout will feature private rooms and the space to accommodate the latest medical technology and provide privacy for the patient and family members. The new facility will have 36 beds with 24 bathrooms vs. the current configuration with 24 beds and four bathrooms. There will be one patient per room in the new emergency room whereas there are as many as four patients per room in the current emergency room.

The new facility sports a more efficient layout, to better accommodate patient processing and confidentiality, and to provide sufficient space for storing supplies and equipment, and for accommodating emergency medical technicians and their equipment, charting and dictation, and office and staff education needs. The new facility will also be better prepared for a disaster. It will provide ways to isolate, decontaminate, and care for patients with acute needs as well as separate critical patients from the “walking wounded” in the case of a disaster event. It also will be better able to isolate potential infectious patients.

“A new emergency room and trauma center,” Sister Johanna said, “will save more lives, make the patient experience as positive as possible, and better meet the demand for disaster preparedness.”

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