By Elena Olmstead for TCAJoB
Kadlec Regional Medical Center has purchased four acres of bare land at the corner of Highway 395 and 19th Avenue in Kennewick where it will build a new freestanding emergency department.
Jim Hall, director of community relations for Kadlec, said the new building will answer a growing need for emergency services in the Tri-Cities area.
“In our current ER we’ve been seeing 65,000 patients a year in need of emergency care. Our emergency department was built to handle 50,000,” Hall said. “We were seeing a need to expand.”
Over the years Kadlec has seen a large increase in the number of patients coming through its emergency department. Hall said in 2000, the department saw about 23,000 ER patients, a number that exploded to 65,000 by 2011.
“That’s a pretty significant increase over time,” Hall said.
He said the hospital started looking into ways to increase their emergency room capacity several years ago when the number of patients passing through the ER exceeded 50,000 in a year.
Over the past several years the hospital has been looking at options for how to deal with this need. The first thing hospital officials considered was expanding Kadlec’s existing emergency department, but it would be a costly renovation. And the current hospital is essentially landlocked with little room for physical expansion, Hall said.
So they began studying where their emergency room patients were coming from and found that nearly 10,000 patients a year were from Kennewick and another roughly 2,000 were coming to Kadlec from northern Oregon for emergency care.
With that in mind, the hospital started mulling over options, looking to Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center for inspiration. In recent years the Seattle hospital has built three freestanding emergency rooms, including one in Millcreek and another in Redmond.
“They’ve been very popular with patients,” Hall said.
He explained a freestanding emergency room offers 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week emergency care. It’s always staffed, but has no in-patient beds. If a patient needs to be admitted, they are transferred to the main hospital.
That would be the case with the new emergency department Kadlec is planning in south Kennewick. The new facility will operate, be outfitted and staffed like a traditional emergency room, but without the physical hospital building being connected to it.
Hall said the freestanding facility will offer patients a lot of convenience.
“When it comes to emergency room care what people want to do is be seen quickly and in a timely manner,” Hall said.
And that’s exactly what hospital officials say the new ER will offer to patients.
“Consumers are demanding a more responsive service and we believe the freestanding emergency service will do just that and the lessons learned there will improve the care at our other facilities,” said Kirk Harper, Kadlec’s vice president of nursing services.
Hall estimates the hospital will hire 40 to 50 additional staff members to work at the new ER.
Hospital officials plan to start construction on the new 25,000-sq.-ft. facility in June and the $17 million project is expected to be complete in 2013.