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Hospital emergency department expanding

January 14, 2007|By KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

A renovation project that will cost about $600,000 will add beds to the emergency department at Washington County Hospital, where recent waits have been as long as 10 hours, officials said.

Though officials plan to build a new hospital near Robinwood Medical Center, emergency room managers said they can no longer wait for more space.

Dr. Stephen Kotch, chair of the department of emergency medicine, said a new process of identifying the most seriously ill patients has decreased the length of time they spend waiting for treatment. People who have come to the hospital with less serious conditions are waiting longer, he said.

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A project costing $600,000 to $700,000 will add beds to an express care area, where staff employ a "get 'em in, get 'em out" concept to treat people with conditions like cuts and sprains, said Bonnie Forsh, administrative director of emergency and outpatient services.

With the express care area expanding, the rest of the emergency department will have more space. Offices are being turned into areas for patient treatment, Forsh said.

The hospital also might expand the hours of the express care area, which is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Forsh said.

The renovations will add space for express care and six beds to the emergency room, Forsh said.

A new hospital, which will have a few less beds than the current one, could open in January 2009, The Herald-Mail reported in November.

Under the new procedures, incoming emergency room patients register right away, Forsh said. If the patients are very ill, hospital staff begin taking their vital signs, or even treating them, within minutes, Kotch and Forsh said.

People with life-threatening conditions like pneumonia, heart attack and stroke often look normal to people who don't have medical expertise, and patients sometimes get angry when they believe they have been skipped over for services, Kotch said.

Kotch said the hospital is committed to making sure the most critically ill patients are taken care of immediately.

Forsh said the renovation is designed with the emergency department on the edges, so it can expand, if needed. The renovations could be finished by the end of February, Forsh said.

Even after renovations add bed space, an emergency room visit could require some patience.

The changes likely will only reduce the time some people spend waiting for a doctor, Kotch said.

"I think this is a temporary solution to an overwhelming problem," Kotch said.

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