U-M Hospital growth continues with opening of $17.5M emergency room expansion
It doesn’t exactly look like home, but the new wing of the emergency department at the University of Michigan Health System aims to at least reduce the cold, clinical appearance that’s usually associated with emergency rooms.
More importantly, it provides additional sorely needed space, said Jennifer Gegenheimer Holmes, director of operations for the department. “We were taking care of patients in the hall,” she said.
That’s a literal statement. A hallway in the existing emergency department was turned into a patient area. Starting today, hospital employees will again be able to use it as a hall.
The $17.7 million renovation project at the hospital has created 27 new patient rooms, bringing the department’s total to 90. The rooms opening today mark the final stage of the renovation, which also expanded and improved the triage, arrival and waiting areas and created a new space for psychiatric emergency services. Officials say the new space will also help them deliver care more efficiently and reduce patient wait times.
In designing the new area, the hospital wanted to do everything it could to create spaces that would reduce anxiety for patients at what is by nature a very stressful time, Holmes said. The hospital sought input on the design from patients, she said.
“It was very clinical before,” she said. In the new space the hospital put two-toned wood-grain floors, cloth curtains and used a decorating theme employing splashes of color and natural elements.
The last time the hospital designed emergency space, about a decade ago, officials chose a mix of private rooms and curtained patient areas, Holmes said. The thinking at the time was that it was better for nurses and doctors to be able to look about and see as many patients as possible. In the new design the goal was to provide as much privacy for patients as possible.
Designers also took care to make sure the new space is as functional as possible. They did mock-ups for the rooms and staff collaborated to determine the best location for equipment and to make sure there was adequate space. They also designed a central area for doctors and nurses to work together, rather than at separate workstations, as they do in the existing emergency department space.
The new space, which required three years to plan and a year to build, includes five negative-pressure rooms that don’t allow air from a patient’s room into the hallway or other patient areas. Instead, the air is channeled outside.
Coinciding with the creation of the new space was the move of the university’s pediatric emergency department to the new $754 million Mott Children’s Hospital. The rooms formerly used for pediatric emergency care will be redesigned for patients who may not need to be admitted but need several hours of observation before going home.
The opening of the emergency department expansion also comes as U-M considers adding more single rooms for patients in the former Mott building to expand capacity there.
U-M, like emergency departments across the country has experienced a steady increase in the number of emergency-room visits, said Dr. Steven Kronick, the hospital’s Emergency Department service chief. U-M’s Emergency Department sees more than 80,000 patients a year, an average of more than 200 per day.
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows that such visits reached 136 million in 2009, a 10 percent jump from the year before. A variety of factors is responsible for the increased demand for emergency room services, Kronick said.
“This expansion will help us better meet the increasing demands for service while preparing us for continued growth in the future,” said Dr. William G. Barsan, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine.