Built in 1982, the Emergency Department was designed to accommodate 6,000 patients each year. Three decades later, that volume has more than doubled to 14,000 patients annually, with more than 70 percent of in-patient admissions coming through the Emergency Department. However, the department’s footprint and infrastructure have remained relatively the same, creating many inconveniences and inefficiencies.
Many of you in the greater Brattleboro community have crossed the threshold of the Emergency Department and recognize the short-comings of our 30-year-old facility. Although the Emergency Department has served us well for a long while, it is time we address the challenges before us and improve the patient experience.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s expansion and renovation plans for the new Emergency Department will provide a higher level of privacy, comfort, convenience, and accessibility for our patients and their families and visitors.
For instance, we will be increasing the number of beds from seven to 12; expanding the size of the treatment rooms to allow space for new technology equipment; providing two safe rooms for patients needing psychiatric and substance abuse services; and adding two rapid treatment rooms to reduce the wait time for patients needing minor urgent care.
The Emergency Department registration will become part of the overall hospital registration, making it faster and more efficient. The waiting room will be larger and more accommodating. There will be separate entrances for walk-in patients and patients arriving via ambulance. The former gift and coffee shop will be reconcepted into a new café-style environment. In all, we will be renovating 8,500 square feet and constructing an additional 2,500 new square feet.
With the renovations and expansion, the physical location of the Emergency Department doorway will now be in close proximity to the front entrance of the hospital, enhanced with a functional canopy and improved lighting. This brand new focal point will enhance the Emergency Department’s visibility and access, and create a positive first impression, with a look and feel similar to the hospital’s most recent addition, the Richards Building.
Additional benefits include enabling the hospital to meet or exceed current code and regulatory requirements, while increasing the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest physicians and staff.
To develop our plans for modernizing and expanding Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, we collected thoughtful and candid input from staff, physicians, community members, board members, and focus groups, among others, to identify deficiencies and propose solutions. The State of Vermont, represented at that time, by the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration (BISHCA), had no doubts about our demonstrated need to address deficiencies with our current Emergency Department, project was approved, in record time, in February 2012.
In November 2012, we took the first step in our Emergency Department renovation project. We relocated the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment to its new permanent home in the Richards Building. The MRI equipment had been housed in a temporary trailer, which could only be reached by walking through the Emergency Department. Now the MRI is in its rightful home, located in space that had been previously built in the Richards Building.
Phase One of the Emergency Department project continued throughout this past Winter and Spring, and is slated to be finished within a month or so. The main entrance of the hospital has been closed while construction has been underway for the new lobby, admitting area, café, and entryways for the Hospital and the Emergency Department. In the meantime, the Richards Building has served as the main entrance, with extra effort from staff and volunteers to help guide patients and visitors through the hospital
Although it is somewhat unusual to begin construction before a Capital Campaign is completed, our Board of Directors felt the need to commence the project as soon as possible. The board also felt confident in starting construction based on the overwhelmingly positive response and support from the community at larger. Investing in a new Emergency Department is a critical component to maintaining the vibrancy of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital as a cornerstone of our community.
We expect the final completion of the new Emergency Department will be finished in spring 2014. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit BMH’s new Emergency Department website at bmhed.org, where you can track our progress, review architectural plans, and see project photos.
Steven Gordon is the President and CEO of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.