By Dr. GERALDA XAVIER
Special to the Sun-Gazette
A staged approach to the completion of Susquehanna Health's new Emergency Room at Williamsport Regional Medical Center is ensuring we can provide seamless, uninterrupted emergency care for patients throughout the construction project.
Patients and visitors will see the first stage of Susquehanna Health's efforts to improve and enhance the overall patient experience in March when new treatment rooms open in conjunction with other patient areas of the Susquehanna Tower.
The full impact of changes will be evident in October when all construction is complete and the new emergency area officially opens with 36 private treatment rooms.
During the first stage in March, 22 new private patient treatment rooms will replace 18 curtained bays in the current ER. The difference will be notable even as the construction team continues its work to create an additional 14 private rooms to be completed for stage two in October. Everyone's patience will be appreciated as construction continues in portions of the former ER space to make the transition complete.
What will be noticeable starting in March? Many operational improvements and efficiencies will be in place including decentralized nursing stations that enable nurses to directly observe and stay in contact with patients. They will be equipped with computers for efficient record keeping, order entry and review of test results.
The new, private treatment rooms for patients will be a more comfortable place for treatment or to wait for test results or monitoring that is away from the generalized busy, fast-paced environment of a more centralized ER. Private rooms will promote infection control, reduce noise and improve patient confidentiality. They will feature comfortable new beds, flatscreen televisions, seats for loved ones and private toilets in rooms used for patients who take longer to treat.
In addition, two critical care rooms and a modern radiology suite that includes a CAT scan will provide space and resources so more critical patients, such as stroke patients, can be quickly evaluated and treated.
A number of other initiatives already are making emergency visits less stressful and improving communication with patients and visitors. For example, patient care representatives are helping patients navigate the ER and answer general questions. Nurse supervisors are proactively updating patients and visitors about wait times and keeping them informed about their care.
A triage area near the entrance helps staff efficiently evaluate and place patients from the generalized waiting area. During peak hours of patient activity in the first stage, patients with minor conditions also will be directed into an UrgiCenter with eight exam rooms for non-emergent care. Use of this space is important to ensure we can meet the needs of all of our emergency patients during construction.
We are looking forward to the completion of each stage so we can expand our capacity and provide a better experience and shorter wait times for our patients. The current ER was designed to handle about 25,000 patients a year but has been caring for almost double that volume!
When construction is complete this fall, the ER will be appropriate for the large volume of patients who depend on us for emergency care. There also will be unfinished "shelled" space available if an additional expansion is needed to accommodate higher patient volumes in the future. We appreciate the patience of our community as we work toward completion of this exciting project.
Xavier is the medical director for emergency services at Susquehanna Health. She also serves as the chairwoman of the Department of Ambulatory Care.