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Emergency room gets facelift

July 25, 2017

Sampson Regional Medical Center has recently completed a transition and renovation phase that will not only enhance the quality of care for patients, but allow the hospital’s staff to be more efficient and effective in their course of treatment, hospital officials said.

As part of the renovations, the hospital has renovated the emergency department’s lobby and main patient area, added new treatment rooms and renovated existing private treatment rooms, Marketing Director Amber Cava said.

“Our goal is always to be the healthcare provider of choice for our community,” Cava shared. “We know this is earned by delivering safe, quality and compassionate care to every patient.”

Construction on the project, which was budgeted at $500,000, began nearly two years ago as a four-phase project. Work, Cava said, was completed in phases to allow the flow of patients to stay at the high standards the emergency department has become known for.

The project came in at just slightly over budget at $570,000.

Phase one of the project included updated features in the department’s lobby area. New decor and furnishing were installed to promote a comfortable and relaxed environment for both patients and visitors. Total lobby space was reduced to allow for the addition of six new treatment rooms. This was phase two of the work. These new treatment areas, Cava said, increased patient privacy and comfort.

During phase three of the project, the main emergency department curtained beds were renovated and made larger, reducing the number of beds from seven to six. An additional trauma room was added and a larger workspace for providers and staff was was situated with more convenient access to all three sections of the ER, including clear visibility of the trauma rooms.

The ambulance bay was renovated to provide brighter space for the entrance of the emergency department.

Phase four, the final phase of the project, allowed for a renovation to the five private treatment areas that were original to the main emergency room. This brought the total number of beds to 22, plus the five Fast Track rooms.

According to Cava, the completion of the renovations has enabled the hospital to improve workflows and redesign systems that are safer for the patients. Additional, Cava adds that the medical facility has focused on building strong teams of nurses, providers and support staff who are committed to developing a culture of respect, motivation, teamwork, integrity, ownership and accountability for safe and quality care.

“We are most appreciative of the patience from both the community and our staff as we’ve moved through improvements during the past two years,” Cava reiterated. “We know we’ve encountered some growing need of our community. We recognize that, at times, some patients have experienced greater wait times in our emergency department.”

According to Jerry Heinzman, chief financial officer, the original plan did not include the construction to the ambulance area or the creation of a four-room semi-safe area for behavioral health patients. These projects were an additional $32,000 and $59,000 respectively. The add-on of these projects allowed SRMC to complete them more cost effectively than if they were done as an individual project.

According to Connie Wolfe, RN, ER nursing director, the department sees roughly 100 patients a day. The original ER was built to serve only 17,000 patients per year. Before renovations began, approximately 35,000 patients were seen each year.

“This renovation was necessary to meet emergency room utilization by our community,” Wolfe said. “While the deployment of our new emergency department and construction have temporarily affected our turn-around times, we are proud to still be below the national average of 280 minutes.”

Even at the height of construction and implementation of phases, in May, the average turn-around time was only 271 minutes. In June, that turn-around time was 228 minutes and is projected to be only 219 minutes in July.

Allison Taylor, chief nursing officer, said that in just over a year, the emergency department has trended back down due to its focus on improving processes, workflows and care delivery to meet the needs of patients. The hospital has averaged a turnaround time of approximately 202 minutes during the past four consecutive months.

“We acknowledge the challenges we faced during a period of construction and new EHR implementation and we realize the impact this had on community confidence in our ER,” Taylor said. “Our leaders, staff, and providers in the ER have maintained a strong focus on reducing this rate. We’re proud to say that during the past few months we have consistently hovered at or below the national average for LWBS (left without being seen) rates.”

One of the benefits from the overhaul, according to staff, is the decreased wait times. The additional treatment rooms has allowed for more patients to been seen in a more effective and efficient manner.

According to Dr. Shawn Howerton, chief executive and medical officer, the hospital follows the same provider staffing plan that was in place prior to construction. The emergency department is staffed with one physician per each 12 hour shift and one or two physician assistants to see patients in both the ER and Fast Track.

“To improve patient flow and to help minimize lobby wait time, each patient is seen by a triage nurse to asses the patient’s acuity level,” Wolfe said. “With the increase in available treatment areas, this allows a greater chance for patients to be direct bedded.”

An electronic health record system has been implemented, which allows for communication between providers. This allows the ER staff to access patient information, enabling providers to reach accurate diagnosis more quickly.

“With bedside scanning, we have additional checks and balances to make sure the patient matches with the medication that the nurse will administer,” Wolfe shared.