STERLING – If all goes as planned, CGH Medical Center will begin its ER expansion in August.
When it's finished, the new emergency department will be more than double its present 10,000 square feet, will have 18 more and larger rooms for patients and their families, and special rooms for patients with psychiatric issues.
Bids for the $7.5 million expansion, which is being paid for with city-issued general obligation bonds, will be accepted May 15; construction will take about a year and a half, said Dr. Paul Steinke, CGH president and CEO.
The emergency department had 4,000 visits in 1971, between 14,000 to 17,000 visits in 1993, and nearly 30,000 visits last year. The expansion is designed with 40,000 visits a year in mind.
"Right now, we have 14 rooms, with four rooms in the hallway," Steinke said. "They are always full."
When he came to town 8 years ago, he very rarely saw patients in the ER hallway.
"There's not a day that goes by now where I don't walk down there and see patients that are in a hallway bed, separated by a curtain, out in the public. If I were sick, that would be the last place I would want to be, in the hallway."
At almost 22,000 square feet, the new department will have 32 rooms – 26 regular rooms and six "quick turn bays." Some of the rooms will be equipped to handle the very obese, also a growing trend in medicine.
There will be more room for staff, computers and medical equipment. The nurses' stations will be low to the ground, so they "have eyes on most of these rooms," he said.
The waiting room will be expanded slightly, and there will be more storage space.
Officials not only want more space, they also want to streamline the treatment process. To that end, they looked at the way patients are admitted into the hospital, what their first point of contact is and how they move through the department.
"We realized that not everyone needs a bed," he said. "So some folks will be in more what we call ‘treatment bays,’ so they may have a recliner to sit in."
Even the floor plan has been made more efficient.
The department also will do a better job of discharging patients by providing education in consultation rooms as they leave, Steinke said.
Being able to break ground in August will depend on the state, which must give the hospital the OK to move its nuclear medicine lab.
The drawings for the expansion also must be approved by the state Department of Public Health.
"Those things will happen, but there's a formal process that has to take place, and the state right now is very unpredictable and slow," Steinke said.
The hospital's finance committee and its board also must give the plan final approval. That's expected to come at the April 30 meeting.