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Expectations high for new emergency department

The sprawling new emergency department at King’s DaughtersMedical Center officially opened and received its first patient at5:30 a.m. Wednesday after hospital staff worked through thepre-dawn hours to fill the department with supplies andequipment.

KDMC Director of Nursing Merlene Myrick said the doctors andnurses working in emergency medicine have long awaited the spaciousdepartment’s opening and are eager to use its high-tech utilities.The ED has been operating in a pair of modular buildings for oneyear, dealing with cramped workspaces while the new facility wasunder construction.

“We’ve been going, ‘Oh my gosh, how long can we take it in thesemodular buildings?'” Myrick said. “(The new ED) won’t be one ofthose things where you have to wait for one room to open before youput another (patient) in the back. The availability and size of itwill make a tremendous difference – a tremendous difference.”

The new ED features 19 specialized rooms, each set up with thenecessary tools and medicine to treat specific types ofemergencies.

Of the 19 rooms, there are four general exam rooms; three fasttrack rooms, built to expedite treatment of minor emergencies; twotrauma bays and two cardiac rooms, all four of which were builtspaciously to allow several doctors, nurses and machines to gatherbedside; two OB-GYN rooms; and one room each dedicated topediatrics, optometry, orthopedics, lacerations, otolaryngology anda quiet room.

Myrick pointed out that each room could be used for any kind ofcare if necessary.

“It will help the nurses where they don’t have to run around somuch,” she said of the specialized rooms. “The supplies will bewhere they need them. How much we have to run around makes a big’ole difference in how fast you get treated. The flow of the ED, Iforesee, will be better.”

The bigger space requires more manpower, and Myrick said twonurses laid off during KDMC’s downsizing in December have beenrehired to help staff the new ED.

ED/EMS Manager Terry Singleton said the new ED would house anextension of the hospital’s radiology department, and the presenceof a dedicated X-ray machine and CT scanner would likely bring thebiggest benefit of all the department’s new features.

“It’s going to be spectacular,” he said. “Everything is therefor us. The flow will be 100 percent better.”

Singleton said the presence of radiology in the new ED wouldmake patient care much quicker, as patients will no longer have tobe transported out of the ED and across the hospital. He saidX-rays taken in the new ED would be available for doctors andnurses within six seconds.

“We have high expectations,” Singleton said.

KDMC Chief Executive Officer Alvin Hoover said a new ED wasidentified as one of the hospital’s primary needs years ago whenthe construction plans were formulated. He said years of growingvolume necessitated a change from the hospital’s existing ED, whichwas built in the 1960s.

“The ED and the ICU were right at the top of the list of thingsthat were high visibility and high utilization – we needed thoseareas to be fixed first,” Hoover said. “Our community deserves anew ED, where they can get up-to-date, efficient, compassionatecare.”

Hoover said construction crews and hospital staff have spent thelast month putting finishing touches on the new ED, which openedapproximately one month later than the predicted late-March date.He said the move was delayed because the hospital didn’t want toadmit patients and then have to do further work on thebuilding.

“When you’re moved in and you’re taking care of people, youcan’t say, ‘We’re gonna come back and shut this down,'” Hooversaid. “You have to get it right the first time.”

The opening of the new department completes the biggest portionof the hospital’s multi-year, $12 million expansion and renovationproject, a job that began in early 2007 and has seen the hospitalrapidly modernized. During the project, the hospital has thus faradded a state-of-the-art intensive care unit, added post surgicalbeds to the second floor and, now, completed its high-techemergency department.

KDMC Chief Development Officer Johnny Rainer said the hospitalwould next begin room-by-room renovations. Upgrades to the laborand delivery area have already begun, he said, and patient rooms onthe second and third floor would be done one at a time until theentire hospital is like new.

“We will have a hospital that’s going to be upgraded and broughtinto the 21st century,” Rainer said.