Currently, cranes, scaffolds and skid loaders are focused on the exterior of CMC’s emergency department, but crews are scheduled to move inside this week as early as Wednesday. With the construction progress will come big changes for the department.
In 18 months, the emergency department will be completely transformed with new rooms, more privacy, advanced technology, higher security, easier access and a design to increase efficiency. In the meantime, however, there will be less room in which doctors and medical staff have to work. Hospital administration is excited for the upgrade, but ask patients to be aware of the changes taking place.
Among the first things patients will notice is how to enter the emergency department. Those arriving by private vehicle now enter the hospital’s main entrance and are greeted by staff who will direct them to the emergency department.
Emergency Department Director Dr. Carlo Oller joined the CMC staff in January 2012 and has been planning for this moment. To accommodate for less space during construction, Oller has adjusted practices and procedures for seeing patients. Now, a mid-level practitioner will see everyone that walks through the door as soon as they arrive, assessing their condition and ordering tests if deemed appropriate so that diagnosis may actually begin before they are seen by a physician.
“During construction, we’re going to be doing it in phases and we’re literally going to tear down half the area of space to construct and rebuild. That’s going to take away four beds and four hallway spaces. So we’re losing eight patient-care spaces in the process,” Oller said. “We used to be on a normal flow model. They would come in, they would see a triage nurse and no one would see them until they got to the back. Since I became director, we put a practitioner up here so now, as soon as he’s triageing, she’s putting in orders and you may actually get an X-ray, a CAT scan or even blood work while you’re waiting to be seen. So you may still wait three hours to be discharged, but at least the diagnostic process is getting started. So the wait to be seen may be longer, but the wait to be cared for, the overall wait, shouldn’t be longer because of these adjustments.
“So, even though some may say, ‘I didn’t even see a doctor for three hours.’ Yes, but they saw someone right away and they saw the injury and they said it can wait. Even though the total wait is long, maybe they were here for five hours for a sprained ankle, they saw the practitioner right away.”
In addition to how patients are seen, a new unit, completed late last year will be used during construction so that all of the emergency department space will not be lost. The critical decision unit is designed as a patient-care space to transition patients before discharge, but will be used now to help alleviate patient load from the emergency department.
“Next week, a new phase begins as expansion plans move inside the emergency department,” said Chief Operating Officer Lori Rakes. “Along with this phase, we are implementing a new plan that will allow patients with minor illness or injury to receive emergency care by the same, highly trained ED physicians and staff in a patient-care area adjacent to what has traditionally been the emergency department.
“This approach will help us continue to exceed expectations of our patients seeking emergency care during this period of new growth and expansion. Excitement is high among physicians, staff, and patients as well for the end result of a new, state-of-the-art emergency department to provide outstanding care and customer service we have always been committed to.”
Hospital administrators hopes the process will go relatively smoothly, especially given progress that has already been accomplished in the past year. Oller has implemented new techniques, including altering the patient-flow method, to help make the CMC emergency department more efficient. These efficiencies, Oller says, will aid physicians and patients during the construction process and will only improve once the emergency department upgrade is complete.
“Since I’ve started, we’ve done a lot of improvements in terms of metrics,” Oller said. “The time to see a provider decreased by half. We went from an average of 45 minutes to see a provider to an average of 22 minutes to see a provider. The left-without-being-seen-by-a-provider [group] was more than 3 percent — this is people coming and only seeing a nurse — dropped by more than half. It’s now less than one percent.”
As phases progress, patient care will be moved from current facilities into new emergency-care areas as construction begins on the next phase. Once all is complete, the emergency department will include about 30 private rooms, increased technology, three trauma rooms, rooms designed specifically for psychiatric patients and a CT scan devoted to emergency department use.
“We’re going to gain nine more ER spaces, so we’ll be closer to 30 beds. We’ll have our own CT scan. Three of our rooms will be refitted as trauma rooms to extend the level of care we provide so that we can see trauma patients,” Oller said. “We have a lot of psychiatric patients and the rooms we have for them now are OK, but they’re not where they need to be. The new construction is going to have a more protected area, more secure, for their safety and that of our staff.”
Cartersville Medical Center is located at 960 Joe Frank Harris Parkway, Cartersville. For more information, visit www.cartersvillemedical.com.