New emergency department on display

April 13, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Scores of people lined up Tuesday afternoon to get a look at something they would normally rather avoid - the inside of Chambersburg Hospital's new emergency department.

"This is the second new emergency department I've gone through since 1986," said Dr. Thomas Anderson, the department's medical director. The current emergency room, which will remain in service until April 25, was completed in 1994 and Anderson said it was outdated "when we moved in."

"I think it's going to be a place that the staff will take some pride working in," he said of the new department.


"That was designed in an era when managed care was supposed to divert patients from the emergency room, and that never happened," said John A. Massimilla, the hospital's vice president for administration. Instead, volume increased over the years to an average of about 3,500 a month and 42,000 visits last year.

"March was extreme for us. That was the first time we broke 4,000 patients," said Nurse Manager Jill Harshman. The number was closer to 4,500, she said.

Like the old emergency room, the new one has space for 19 patients, a number that will increase to 30 on Sept. 30 when the old emergency room is scheduled to be renovated and tied in to the new facility, Massimilla said.

Once that is completed, the emergency department will have a total of 23,300 square feet of space, compared with 9,500 square feet in the current emergency room, according to a hospital fact sheet.

The entire cost of the project is $13.9 million, including $8.8 million for construction and $3 million for equipment.

Rather than curtained treatment areas, the department now has treatment rooms to give patients more privacy, Massimilla said. There also are two trauma bays along with six negative pressure rooms and two isolation rooms, he said.

Negative air pressure prevents contaminants, such as chemical or biological agents, from escaping those rooms, Harshman said. The isolation rooms can be used to treat anyone with a range of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis and, with homeland security in mind, smallpox or anthrax, she said.

The first phase of the project also includes an additional 2,650 square feet of laboratory space. Once the second phase is completed, there also will be a CAT scanner and X-ray, plus a crisis intervention area and psychiatric seclusion and interview areas, according to Massimilla.

The current ER has more treatment rooms than seats in the waiting area, something Harshman considers a problem because "very few people come to the emergency room alone." The new waiting area has seating for approximately 80 people and includes a play area for children, a 190-gallon aquarium and flat screen televisions.

"It's exciting to have the space we need for our patients," she said.

"Really, the emergency room is the front door of the hospital," according to Harshman, who said 68 percent of the admissions to the 247-bed hospital first come through the emergency department.

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