Piedmont Medical Center unveils expanded emergency department

dworthington@heraldonline.comJune 26, 2014 

Patients to Piedmont Medical Center’s new emergency department will find wide halls, bright lights and an array of equipment including ergonomic wheelchairs.

The new space stands in contrast to Piedmont’s current emergency department which opened in 1996. No longer will gurneys be stacked against corridor walls. There is dedicated alcove space to store carts with medical equipment. The new patient rooms are almost twice the size of the existing ones.

Piedmont officials, however, hope the newness will be secondary. They hope that patients will foremost notice the quality of care they receive.

That’s the No. 1 goal, offering, “consistent, exceptional health care,” said Bill Masterton, Piedmont’s chief executive officer. Next, he said, is offering timely service with “dignity and compassion.”

Piedmont spent $20 million, doubling its emergency department from 21,113 square feet to 42,251 square feet.

Phase one of the project was unveiled Thursday and will be open to patients July 1. Phase two, the renovation of the current emergency department, will begin soon and is expected to finished by the end of the year.

The expansion comes as demand for PMC’s emergency services rises. In 2010, PMC saw 57,000 emergency department patients. Last year, it was 68,500. The expansion will increase PMC’s patient capacity by about 10,000 for the year, officials said. For each of the past three months, emergency department usage has been more 200 patients.

The expansion and implementing new procedures for patient treatment should help the hospital meet its goals of timely service, PMC officials said Thursday.

PMC’s current “door-to-doc” time is 42 minutes, 12 minutes more than the hospital’s goal. With new treatment procedures, the goal is to have patients with “minor” needs be treated and released within two hours. For more serious cases, the goal is to have them admitted to the hospital within three hours.

The basis of PMC’s new “open door” treatment plan is a philosophy that a “patient doesn’t own the room,” said Teresa O’Neill, a registered nurse and emergency department director.

After meeting with doctors and getting treatment, patients with minor conditions will be sent to a waiting room where they can rest in recliners while waiting for test results or to be discharged, O’Neill said.

Patients with more serious conditions will be sent to a waiting area where their health can be monitored.

“We have to be ready for the next patient,” O’Neill said.

There is also a protocol for how treatment is given in a room. All of the medical staff will be on the patients’ right side. Family members, if allowed, will be positioned on the left side. Patient monitors, connections to oxygen, and other medical equipment are positioned based on this protocol.

The new emergency department also has several specialty rooms.

There is a two-bed trauma room that is filled with surgical-grade equipment, allowing doctors to perform surgery there if needed, O’Neill said.

There are four rooms dedicated for patients with behavioral problems and one room where law enforcement can bring a patient and keep that person separated from the general emergency room population.

PMC’s staff has grown to meet the needs of the expanded department. The hospital has hired 30 more workers, including 20 nurses, bringing the emergency department staff to 140 people.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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