As he welcomed guests in the hospital’s new entrance lobby, CMC President and CEO Keith Sandlin cited the improvements the $18 million investment brought to CMC: additional trauma rooms, cardiac rooms, pediatric rooms, a new ambulance entrance, X-ray equipment and a 50-slide CT scanner.
“This has been a difficult project in terms of phasing. It’s been a moving target every day,” Sandlin said as he recognized the emergency department staff. “There’s been a lot of noise. These folks hardly knew where to go from day to day, there was so much movement of the pieces. But they’ve always had a can-do and very positive attitude and have performed remarkably, so Heather [Clement] and the whole ER team deserves a lot of credit there.”
Following the ribbon cutting, nurses led tours of the renovated emergency department, which expanded from 18 to 30 rooms during the project. Other improvements include expanding the number of trauma rooms from two to three, adding six psychiatric care rooms and a variety of new electronic equipment.
“Oh this is going to be tenfold better,” said Director of Emergency Services Heather Clement on the renovation. “We actually have built our emergency room around a front-end proces that will allow us to add what they call virtual beds, so if you come in with a minor complaint, maybe an earache or ankle pain or wrist pain, we don’t have to put you in a bed and lay you down. We can put you in a chair — we have a room to discharge you in that’s private — and get you out without tying up that bed for another sicker patient that we can put in. So it increases our capacity.”
Further efficiencies are found, Clement continued, in the electrocardiogram equipment in each room and a new scanner used for checking patients into the ER.
The new EKGs, Clement said, are able to upload information to an iPhone application and allow cardiologists to access the information anywhere without a printout. Checking into the ER can now be done with a new machine that scans driver’s licenses for basic information and fills in some forms automatically.
“That will make it a lot faster, especially if we have a large amount of patients that come in at once,” Clement said. “We will have two, and the additional way we do it currently where you walk up to a person and have them put you in. But it scans your ID very quickly and have you in, probably, in less time than we can type it into the computer.”
Sandlin believed the focus on efficiency is the highlight of CMC’s emergency department.
“The imaging capabilities in the ED here, the 50-slide CT scanner — there are very few hospitals this size that have a CT scanner actually in the ED. So we have this CT scanner, then we have another one up in our imaging department down the hall that takes care of outpatients and inpatient population,” he said. “That will really help in terms patient thru-put and the efficiency piece of it.
“Then we focus a lot on our ambulance traffic. We have literally hundreds of ambulance visits per month. [With] the new dedicated ambulance entrance we can handle, you know, six or seven ambulances at the same time, a major benefit to us and the [emergency medical service] and ambulance service as well.”
In addition to the technology improvements and room expansions, the renovation included a design scheme of browns and tans, as well as a series of animal decals in the pediatric rooms and hallway.
“So much of what we do now is about that patient experience piece and really servicing our customers, patients in a more efficient and kind of a user-friendly manner,” Sandlin said of the interior design. “There’s an awful lot of focus on that. We realize that most patients who come to a hospital don’t want to be there, so we’ll do everything we can do to relieve that anxiety and make it as pleasant as we possibly can.”
Though the ER’s official opening date is set for Monday, some patients were already occupying rooms as the tour made its rounds. As CMC celebrated the end of its latest construction project, Sandlin said the hospital was already beginning to think about the next expansion phase.
“We’re going to be focusing on our operating room capacity. We’ve just about outgrown our operating room area. Probably we’ll be adding more [intensive care units], CCU bed, critical care beds, for that population. Because what we’re seeing here is the population gets older and older and the demand for critical care beds definitely goes up, and then probably a need for just more general or acute care beds as well,” he said. “We’re a 112-bed hospital right now and the winter months — our business is somewhat cyclical — but during the winter months we’re at capacity about 60 percent of the time.
“... Add probably a couple of more floors in the not too distant future to increase our bed capacity, and certainly as the community grows that generates increased demand for our services as well.”