Construction is continuing in the emergency department (ED) and the operating room (OR) suites at Wilkes Regional Medical Center.
The first phase of the $9,997,000 ED expansion and renovation project, which added 9,500 square feet of space, was opened Thursday, May 24. The ED was expanded 88 feet into the adjacent parking area to make room for six new treatment rooms, a new and larger triage room, a new patient registration area and enlarged waiting area, and for the 2,200 square foot Heart Center. The heart center is now seeing 700 patients per month from five counties.
As part of Phase Two of the ED project, six of the treatment rooms and nurses stations adjacent to the new area are being renovated and converted into 10 new treatment rooms.
When that work is done, the 12 treatment rooms in the rear of the ED will be remodeled, bringing the total to 28 rooms.
Also, the new parking lot adjacent to the ED parking area, with 42 spaces, should be open within two weeks. A large retaining wall—18 feet high at the southeast corner—was built along Boone Trail (at the main entrance to the campus), and 400 truckloads of dirt were brought in to bring the grade of the new lot level with the existing lot.
The two lots, with a combined capacity of 72 spaces, will be designated as patient parking.
The new patient registration area, adjoining the new ED waiting room, will open Monday, Aug. 6. Currently the registration area is adjacent to the main entrance to the hospital.
No decline in business
Gene Faile, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said that the patient volume in the ED has not dropped during the construction.
“We saw 2,706 patients in the ED during June this year, and 2,659 in June last year,” Faile said. “We saw 2,971 patients in May.
“It’s remarkable that the volume didn’t go down because of the construction. People don’t usually want to deal with issues like that, so we are very pleased. We’re trying to make it as easy and convenient as we can for our patients and their families to deal with the work we’re doing.”
Faile added, “We’re seeing more emergency patients from Alexander County…about 12 ambulance deliveries to the ED a month. The patients have a choice of whether they want to come here, or go to Frye Regional or Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory. It’s about the same distance from Taylorsville to all of the hospitals, but it doesn’t take as long to get here because there aren’t as many traffic lights and intersections as there are along the route to Hickory.”
Because of the increased number of exam rooms in the emergency department, most patients are now taken directly to a room when they arrive at the hospital.
“We won’t have them waiting in the lobby,” said Leigh Combs, the nurse manager for the emergency department. “With the triage area, we can decide what level of care is needed for each patient. We can also draw blood and do tests such as EKGs, and that makes the process quicker.
“Eighty-seven percent of the patients who come to the emergency room are either discharged, or admitted to an in-patient bed within three hours from the time they arrive.”
Operating room renovations
Renovation and remodeling work is also under way in the surgical area. Crews are updating equipment in each of the five operating suites and are adding two suites for endoscopy procedures. Crews are adding two prep rooms for patients and three rooms where physicians can meet with families. The waiting area is also being enlarged as a part of the $3 million project. The work should be completed by the end of the year.
Two new high-capacity generators have been installed and will be used to provide emergency power for “life critical” areas such as operating suites, emergency department, and intensive care unit. The older generators will be used as backup power for the remainder of the facility.
60th anniversary set
The grand opening for the new construction, and the 60th anniversary celebration for the hospital is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Nov. 2, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The hospital will offer tours of the new areas and the heart center.
Wilkes General Hospital opened in May 1952.