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Eastside Medical opens expanded emergency department

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman The $12 million project will house 41 private patient treatment rooms (pictured), including ten "fast-track" rooms for rapid medical evaluation, nine pediatric urgent care rooms staffed by board certified pediatricians and a dedicated decontamination room.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman The $12 million project will house 41 private patient treatment rooms (pictured), including ten "fast-track" rooms for rapid medical evaluation, nine pediatric urgent care rooms staffed by board certified pediatricians and a dedicated decontamination room.

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Special Photo The newly renovated and expanded Emergency Department will open its doors today, on the hospitalis campus. A ceremony of dedication was held yesterday. The groundbreaking for this project began in August 2010 and was undertaken in three phases so the department could continue to function as renovations were underway.

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Eastside Medical Center emergency room

SNELLVILLE -- Eastside Medical Center officially opened its new, improved and expanded emergency department Wednesday, with several goals in mind: more specialized patient care, better workflow, more space.

For emergency patients at the Snellville hospital, though, it all boils down to one thing: 30 minutes or less isn't just for pizza anymore.

"In a nation of wait times that are regularly two-plus hours at most hospitals, we're now under 30 minutes (average)," Eastside COO Dustin Greene said this week. "And we're very proud of that. The public expects short wait times, and they deserve them."

Wednesday morning's ribbon-cutting marked the end of 16 months of construction on the $12-million project at Eastside Medical Center, which began dropping its "Emory" moniker when parent company HCA took on full ownership in April.

Over that time period, a new addition to the former emergency department was built, the older part remaining fully functional. Once that construction was completed, patients were moved over while dramatic renovations were done at the previously existing site.

Once all opened together, the result was an ER with 41 beds (compared to the previous 28), tons more space and "dramatic process improvement."

"This expansion and renovation will enhance the flow of our emergency department," CEO Kim Ryan said. "What this means is we are able to act more quickly and provide even better care for our patients."

Greene said Eastside's ER has been averaging more than 50,000 visits annually. Quick math lands you at about 2,000 visits per bed, per year under the previous capacity. That equals a need for more beds and a rethinking of strategy.

The newest addition to Eastside's campus has both covered.

New facilities include four distinct ER "pods" geared toward specific types of patients (low acuity, high acuity, etc.). A dedicated CT scanner for the department means quicker testing, especially for stroke patients.

The renovated department also has five "point of care" testing devices. Those essentially mean that if ER patients need things like basic bloodwork, the labs are drawn and, rather than being sent to the main lab and waiting in line behind everyone else in the hospital, are run right there in a matter a minutes.

"If a patient's waiting in a room for five hours," Greene said, "that's a room that can't be used by someone coming through the front door. We've been working very aggressively on those back-end processes."

On the front end, the emergency department now runs on an open bedding policy. As Greene explains it, "If you walk in the front door, if we have an empty bed, you go straight to the bed. You don't sign in and register and triage and then wait for a room."

The hospital then offers bed-side registration.

The now-completed emergency department renovation is the latest in a string of major projects at Eastside. A second, 40,000-square-foot medical office building opened over the summer and is now home to a brand new spine center. The hospital will also have a groundbreaking ceremony for a brand new patient tower early next year, officials announced just this week.

Phase one of that $60-million project is estimated be completed by the end of 2012 and includes three stories, 48 additional patient beds and a new operative suite.

All of it goes hand-in-hand with what Greene called a "highly focused" rededication to patient satisfaction.

"Having a beautiful facility with lots of space is nice, it's important," Greene said. "But I don't care how beautiful your facility is, if you don't have a team that's compassionate and caring at the bedside it's irrelevant."

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