By Kylie Hawn
Daily News Staff Writer
After years of reviewing various plans, the board of directors and administration at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital have approved a plan to expand its emergency room.
The project, slated to cost approximately $2.1 million, will repurpose existing parts of the current facility, including reconfiguring the wound care center, to add 3,850 square feet to emergency room areas. Construction is slated to begin early next year and end in September 2016.
The space will be expanded to serve approximately 24,000 patients per year. The current emergency room has the capacity to serve approximately 8,000 patients per year, but serves twice the capacity at 16,000 patients per year.The hospital is working with an architectural team from JPT Healthcare, which has offices in Johnstown, State College andHollidaysburg.
The expansion will add five more beds, going from nine to 14, update and modernize equipment, add a second nurses’ station, add a room to improve medication dispensing and reduce medication errors and replace beds to have more comfortable beds for patients.
“I know this was something the community and leadership tried to do a few years ago, but ran into budgetary problems,” said hospital CEO Jason Hawkins. “We picked the project back up this spring, working on some strict scope requirements. Through our board processes in July, we approved the expansion.”
Dr. John Roth, director of emergency medicine at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, explained that some of those scope requirements involve the state Department of Health, and previous plans with the emergency room expansion required compliance to regulations that would have added additional costs to the project.
With these regulations and costs in mind, the hospital couldn’t change the configuration of the current emergency room space, but equipment can be upgraded as needed, explained Roth. He noted there won’t be a delay or interruption in patient care during construction because the current emergency room space won’t be reconfigured.
“We’re flipping the triage and bereavement rooms, and we’re getting a new medicine room and a new supply room,” said Roth. “We’re also repurposing the current waiting area and snack area. We’re taking the waiting room where it is now and shifting it to the snack area. The registration will be really out front (where the current snack area is now).”
Additionally, they’re going to be shifting the hallway on the main floor of the hospital that goes past the outpatient lab to accommodate for the extra rooms, which will include two treatment rooms, two rooms with two beds each and a secure room.
Other security plans for the emergency room could possibly mean hiring security, said Hawkins, but plans are being finalized regarding that.
“This is part of the process we’re looking at with patient safety and security,” said Hawkins. “We will have a secure holding room with security cameras to provide a safe environment for our patients and staff.”
“We had to come up with a plan that meets our needs going forward,” said Roth. “The state Department of Health has rigid guidelines, and this is the most cost effective way to meet what we need and what requirements need to be met.”
The rooms that currently house the nursing locker room and doctors’ sleeping quarters will be shifted to part of the current wound care center, which means staff at the wound care center will have to repurpose the space to find ways to meet its needs effectively.
“We worked with the wound care center, because they’ve had over 10 years of experience to draw from to see what they needed,” said Roth. “They won’t be losing any beds, but we repurposed the areas according to what they need, but it also allowed us to do what we needed to do.”
Hawkins said Roth and a nursing team have been working through a process to bring the project to fruition.
Roth noted that while the number of low acuity patients has decreased with the opening of the Convenient Care Center, the number of high acuity patients has actually increased, which means the emergency room expansion will be able to serve those patients more efficiently.
“The number of people who are admitted (to the hospital) or transferred (to another facility) has increased,” said Roth. “Acuity over the years has increased drastically. Patients aren’t just in and out of the emergency room anymore, and the expansion allows us to observe patients more, which is what they want.”
Roth also noted that in the past, patients could spend approximately two hours in the emergency room, whereas now, they can spend up to five hours.
This means the new expansion will allow patients to move to critical departments, like radiology or the outpatient lab area, faster and more efficiently.
“For functionality, we needed to do it in a way to show how far emergency room medicine has come,” said Roth.
Another advantage of this plan is the fact that it allows for additional changes in the future as the needs of the emergency room evolve, said Roth.
“We haven’t boxed ourselves in,” he said. “This allows for the need for things to unfold and to see what the hospital needs in the future.”
Adam Dimm, vice president of operations at the hospital, said the emergency room, along with the addition of the convenient care center, will allow the hospital to find ways to improve access of care to patients.
“That work, along with the expanded space and number of beds in the emergency room will significantly impact the way we move people within departments,” said Dimm. “This is what happens when you get an engine firing on all cylinders.”
Before the hospital “breaks ground” in a manner of speaking with the project early next year, Hawkins said the designs will be finalized and a construction bid will be awarded, as well as permits obtained.
To coincide with the construction of the project, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Foundation will be kicking off a capital campaign to raise $1 million.
“The project requires us to raise $1 million in our community to match a $1 million state grant,” said Linda Carpenter, executive director of J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Foundation.
Funds from other events, like the hospital galas, that have been raised for the emergency department will be used for this project. Fred Price, chair of the hospital’s board of directors, said the expansion comes at an important time for the hospital.
“With the opening of the Convenient Care Center in the Lake Raystown Plaza and the additional services being added to J.C. Blair Health System, we as a board want to focus on quality outcomes,” said Price. “We feel that the emergency room updates will allow the emergency room staff and physicians a better environment to provide the experience that our patients’ deserve.”
“I think this has been a long time coming for the community and for the staff in the emergency room,” said Hawkins. “It’s going to improve patient safety and overall quality, with seeing people on a timely basis and getting them to the next level of care.”
Kylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.