Emergency Department Expansion Approved
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tammy G. Love
Director of Marketing & Medical Staff Development
Phone: (336) 651-8116
By CHARLES S. WILLIAMS
Wilkes Journal-Patriot Staff
Wilkes Regional Medical Center officials received notification on Tuesday that the hospital had been awarded a certificate of need (CON), or state approval, for the expansion of the emergency department (ED) and renovations to the operating suites.
The ED now covers 8,600 square feet. Plans call for an expansion of that space to 16,800 square feet.
Plans to renovate the imaging (X-ray department) were removed from the project. There is currently no need to expand that area, according to hospital officials, since most of the outpatient procedures have been moved to the WRMC Outpatient Diagnostic Center at West Park.
According to the CON, the hospital can spend up to $21,485.55 million on the project. In the CON, hospital officials said that they hope to award contracts for the project in June 2009, and compete the work by October 2011.
The ED expansion will include nine new treatment rooms, moving the total from 17 to 26. The facility will also add 11 observation beds.
The surgical expansion will include the renovation and expansion of the existing suites to provide space for new equipment. The department will be expanded into space now used for educational programs and for the cardiac and pulmonary diagnostic departments. Those services will be moved to the Third North wing, which has been vacant since it housed the operating suites 20 years ago.
In late June, WRMC received a CON to move the hospital's two gastroenterology (GI) endoscopy procedure rooms and support space from the hospital to the WRMC Outpatient Diagnostic Center at West Park. The hospital will submit preliminary construction plans to state officials this fall, and construction should begin by the end of the year. The endoscopy project will be completed by the fall of 2009.
Endoscopy procedures allow physicians to examine internal organs through the insertion of a lighted and flexible optical instrument.
One of the reasons the endoscopy unit is being moved is relieve congestion in the hospital's operating rooms and support area. The endoscopy patients use the same facilities as surgical patients for prep, pre-op and post-op procedures.
In May, board members voted to proceed with plans for a $1.4 million project to renovate and double the size of the hospital pharmacy.
The renovation will allow the hospital to install the newest air filtration system used with the mixing of intravenous medicines, and will bring the hospital into compliance with the latest government regulations.
To make room for the expansion, the hospital is moving the remainder of the materials management department to the hospital support center (at the former Winn-Dixie building). That gradual move has been under way for over a year.
For the month of June, the hospital reported a loss of $58,505 from operations, and a total of $27,033 in non-operating income, for a net loss of $31,472. The previous month, the hospital suffered a net loss of $279,194.
According to the report of the finance committee, the operating margin for the month was impacted by lower inpatient volumes and lower endoscopy procedures, due primarily to physician vacations.
Fred Brown, the hospital's interim chief executive officer, explained that patient volume had improved thus far in July, and the in-patient census has been as high as 73 this month.
"We have also improved in out-patient volume," he said. "Considering the turnaround between May and June, and the increased business this month, we have the hospital headed in the right direction. We were expecting a loss this month based on budget numbers, but we are cautiously optimistic that things will be much better."
Brown and Chief of Staff Dr. Ben Horton said that most of the improvement in the census numbers could be credited to the hospitalist program that has been started at Wilkes Regional executive officer.
Hospitalists are board certified physicians in family practice or internal medicine who work in the hospital to provide admissions, patient follow up and review of medical tests while directing each patient's treatment plan at Wilkes Regional. While doing so, they remain in contact with the patient's primary care physician. When the patient is discharged, they assist in the transition of care back to the patient's primary care physician.
"We’ve been able to keep more patients here in Wilkes because of the hospitalist program," said Dr. Horton. "We don't need to send as many down the road for treatment elsewhere, and that has helped."
Wilkes Regional is recruiting full-time hospitalists who will live in the community. Hospitalists in the program are being provided on a contract basis.