By Victoria Espinoza
The days of dreading the emergency room may be over come Jan. 2, 2017.
Huntington Hospital is more than one year into $43 million worth of renovations for its new emergency department, which was designed to herald in shorter wait times, a separate pediatric section, an expanded trauma center, and private rooms for all patients.
The department is expected to open the day after New Years Day next year, with all state-of-the-art equipment and protocol.
“Most of our admissions come through the ER, most of the people in the building came through the ER, so that’s your face to the community,” said Gerard X. Brogan, MD, executive director at Huntington Hospital and professor of emergency medicine at Hofstra North Shore LIJ School of Medicine.
Brogan said the current ER sees about 51,000 patients a year, but was designed for 24,000. Coming in at around 31,000 square feet, this new facility promises to be bigger and better than anything Huntington residents have seen before, Brogan said.
“So this will be more than twice the size of the current department,” he said.
By far the most common complaint patients visiting the ER have is the wait time. And Brogan said the new layout and protocol would help cut wait time down and expedite the process of a patient being treated.
“Part of that bottleneck starts right up front. You wait to even get triaged and see a nurse,” he said. “This ER has four different triage stations, and at the time of triage there will be either a physician, a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner there. As you’re getting triaged the workup is already starting. We’re taking blood samples, we’re deciding if you need any X-Rays.”
Brogan also said that by the time a patient is sent to the department to be treated, “your blood is already cooking in the lab, radiology is already coming to find you for an X-ray and a doctor is already started to direct your work up.”
He said the hospital’s current ER has already put this method into effect and has cut down patients’ visit by an average of 48 minutes — about one third of their stay.
“It shouldn’t be a penalty for being sick that you sit in an ER for five hours,” Brogan said.
New staff protocol should also cut down wait times. This includes a new lab testing system that has just been put into use, which brings the quickest results in the North Well health system, according to Brogan. Biofire FilmArray, a molecular multiplex assay, allows for results to be returned within an hour rather than 24 hours. This helps patients spend less time at the hospital and allow for treatment to be administered faster if necessary.
“Determining someone’s illness and beginning to treat it quickly is vital for the patient,” Gary Stone, MD, associate chair of pathology and laboratory medicine said in a statement. “This faster laboratory test will also help Huntington Hospital’s emergency department to diagnose, treat and release patients faster.”
Another way Brogan said the ER plans to keep patients happy while they wait is through additional lounge areas.
“Some tests, by their very nature, take at least 45 minutes to an hour to actually perform, so we will have a special results waiting area with comfortable recliners and floor to ceiling windows,” he said. “You’re not going to be sitting on a stretcher, you’ll be out in a lounge area, looking outside and seeing sunlight or watching the sunset.”
The layout also aims at redoing the current entrance system, he said. There will be two entrances in the new ER, one for ambulances and one for patients and families coming in. “Now, if you’re walking your kid in with a sore throat there can be an ambulance unloading right next to you,” Brogan said. “This way, we keep the dramatic traumas which might be uncomfortable to young children around the corner.”
The new department will be giving patients single rooms that measure up to 11 feet by 13 feet.
“You can close your door, and you don’t have to see or hear or smell any of the other cases going on in the emergency department.”
In terms of the ER, which is now 20 years old, Brogan said nothing has been decided yet as to what it will be used for. But some ideas, he said, included creating an advanced treatment center — which would help patients whose illnesses might’ve taken days to diagnose and treat before — be treated within several hours instead of being committed to the hospital for a few days.
The pediatric emergency department has already been renamed after New York Islanders Hall of Famer Clark Gillies, who committed to donating $2 million to the department through the Clark Gillies Foundation. Staff said they are still hoping to receive other donations to rename parts of the ER including the special results waiting area.
Although residents won’t be able to walk through the doors for another 10 months, staff is already eager to share the space.
“I think for the patients, the experience is going to be just phenomenal,” Brogan said. “You’ll have your own room, auditory and visual privacy, with all the bells and whistles, and monitors in every room outfitted for the most complex patient.”