Less waiting time is expected at Williamsport Regional Medical Center now that the second phase of opening the emergency rooms is complete.
In the first phase, the emergency room in Susquehanna Tower opened in March. While that emergency room was in use, the previous one closed to be remodeled. It officially opens today.
With the full emergency department in use, 38 private treatment rooms are available to people in need, said Dr. George Manchester, chief medical officer for Susquehanna Health.
Nurse Bonita M. Hulin, administrative director of emergency services for Susquehanna Health, shows off an orthopedic examination room during a tour of the new emergency room at Williamsport Regional Medical Center Thursday.
"The volume expands and shrinks throughout the day," Manchester said. "When this is open, we can bring them in here instead of waiting rooms."
By getting patients into an available room faster, specialists can perform various tests for ailments and treatments can begin.
The former emergency room was designed in the early 1960s to help about 32,000 people a year.
Since then, the number of people seen annually has grown to 47,000 to
50,000 people a year. The facility can see up to 60,000 people a year, Manchester said.
At the entrance of the emergency room in the Susquehanna Tower side, patients who come in are greeted and provide minimal information about their ailments. Nurses then take patients into a triage area, where comprehensive patient evaluations are done.
Based on the severity of the problem, those with more pressing needs to get into a waiting room will be treated immediately, while those with something not as time-sensitive, such as a cold or sore throat, may have to wait.
In the future, getting the people with minor ailments, such as a sore throat, out before they even need a waiting room will be a focus to make wait time even faster, said Bonita M. Hulin, administrative director of emergency services.
For the most part, the phase one and two emergency rooms are set up the same and even look the same. Because the two are connected, patients will not be able to tell in which they are, making the flow more seamless.
As part of the 38 rooms, four of them are behavioral health rooms, which also will help speed up the waiting time.
Behavioral health is one of the most underfunded, if not the most underfunded, program in the state and country, Hulin said.
Because the area has an unusually high incidence of behavioral problems, patients sometimes have to wait for hours or days until they are deemed sick enough to be admitted into a behavioral health institution.
"It's not uncommon to have four, five people waiting, taking up beds," Manchester said.
The average stay for a behavioral health patient is six hours, while the health system strives to have regular patients out of the department in three hours, Hulin said.
Cameras are in the rooms, which allow for the people watching them to see into ever corner. Beds are specially designed by being caulked to the floor so patients cannot pick them up to throw in extreme situations.
The behavioral health rooms only can be accessed with the proper badge, so rooms are only for patients who need them.
"I would never put a non-psych patient in (the behavioral health rooms)," Hulin said. "If used effectively, we will have enough rooms (for non-behavioral health patients) unless there's a major disaster."
Behavioral health patient rooms can be locked if necessary, but they only will be locked for a short period of time, at the height of behavioral health issues.
While it is possible to get up to six behavioral health patients at one time, a maximum of four is normal.
There also is a sexual assault room, which is slightly bigger than the other rooms. The room has everything necessary for the legal examinations by the nationally certified sexual assault nurse examiners, Hulin said.
A shower also is provided in the sexual assault room.
Other specific rooms in the newly opened department include an orthopedic room and an ear, nose and throat room.
Like the rest of Susquehanna Tower, the emergency department features artwork of local artists and environmentally friendly technology to improve patients' stays.
By mid-December, the rest of Williamsport Regional Medical Center will match the walls of Susquehanna Tower, so patients will not seen any difference in the rooms.