West Chester Hospital expands capacity for emergency care

More than $28 million in emergency department (ED) upgrades or construction will have occurred by the end of the year as hospitals focus on providing faster, more convenient emergency services in rural and suburban communities.

West Chester Hospital is wrapping renovations to add another six patient rooms in its emergency department. The hospital declined to reveal the cost of the construction, but it brings the total of patient rooms to 34.

“We’ve been growing like crazy,” said Dr. Elizabeth Leenellett, medical director of the emergency department.

Leenellett said the emergency department recorded its highest patient volumes in 2014 — topping over 40,000 visits for the year. To compare, the ED recorded 24,000 annual visits in 2010.

The hospital anticipates continued growth in ED visits as the Butler and Warren county region continues its growth spurt. The ED continues to break its daily record for now over 160 patient visits, said Tara Berry, BSN, assistant clinical manager of the ED.

Since opening in May 2009, West Chester Hospital — operated by Cincinnati’s UC Health — has steadily grown in size. The hospital has added service lines of interventional cardiology in 2010, trauma services in 2013 and a maternity unit is currently under construction to open this April or May.

The ED, which first opened with 26 patient beds and two trauma bays, has just finished two months of renovations to add another six “transitional” rooms, Berry said.

The trauma bays are larger in size than a typical patient room to accommodate specialized equipment for the care of trauma patients and extra room to allow for many people working on the patient, Berry said.

On the other hand, the transitional rooms will mainly be used to treat more minor emergencies such as ankle sprains. They feature televisions and “stretcher chairs” that keep the patient vertical but can move down into a bed if needed, Berry said.

“To fast track and get patients through faster,” Berry said. “(But) the transitional room has capability for larger emergencies.”

Leenellett said patients with minor emergencies have an expectation “to be in and out.” The stretcher chairs can be wheeled if the patient needs moved for an X-ray or other tests.

“The sick patients need a bed to lay down, be monitored and get hands-on care,” Leenellett said.

Berry said the new addition will help even more with customer service. She said during peak volumes last December the department had to utilize some hallway beds.

“This will keep patients more comfortable and private,” Berry said.

Cutting down on wait times and providing closer, more convenient access for the residents of rural and suburban communities have been the driving forces behind new freestanding EDs being built to augment hospital emergency centers.

Kettering Health Network opened earlier this month a new $10 million freestanding emergency department in Franklin. It is also building a $10 million freestanding emergency department in Eaton that is expected to be completed later this year.

“We see a need to offer emergency services in the Eaton and Franklin communities,” Fred Manchur, chief executive officer of Kettering Health Network, previously told the Journal-News. “With these freestanding ERs, residents will have better and faster access to quality emergency care closer to home.”

The Franklin facility is located off the Ohio 73 interchange with Interstate 75. The Eaton facility will be located on the campus of Preble County Medical Center, off of U.S. 127.

In August, Premier Health started construction of Atrium Health Center Mason — slated to open in March 2015 — with a 14,000-square-foot emergency department and 30,000 square feet in physician offices, laboratory and imaging services.

Cincinnati-based TriHealth opened a $3 million emergency department in February 2013 on the Bethesda Butler Hospital campus on Hamilton-Mason Road in Hamilton after purchasing the former Butler County Medical Center in 2012.

The ED has 17 patient bays within about 11,000 square feet.

The Mercy Health network in June 2013 expanded its emergency department at Fairfield Hospital to include an extra six patient bays. The hospital spent about $400,000 on the expansion for a total of 38 patient bays in the ED, which recorded over 61,000 visits in 2012.

In Hamilton, the Kettering-owned Fort Hamilton Hospital underwent $5 million in construction to expand its emergency department to 35 patient beds.

The project was ongoing from August 2012 until completion in January 2014.

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