DADE CITY — More room. Less waiting.
Pasco Regional Medical Center recently finished a $7 million expansion of its emergency department designed to take patients from the front door to discharge in two hours or less. The expansion nearly tripled the size of the ER to 12,700 square feet, adding a more spacious waiting area and dedicated CT scanner suite, among other amenities. The number of exam rooms increased from nine to 17.
The hospital also added more physician's assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses and record keepers, all geared toward getting patients assessed, treated and sent on their way.
The expanded ER began handling patients last month. Pasco Regional CEO Philip Minden said the ER has seen a 12 percent increase in patients over last year. The hospital is operated by Health Management Associates, a Naples-based for-profit company with 66 hospitals in 15 states.
Minden said the company invested millions in the expansion project, which also included dedicated orthopedic, pediatric and trauma suites; designated ambulance bays and a paramedics' lounge; and a decontamination suite. The new ER waiting room includes touch-screen computers, an interactive media station and a children's area with touch-screen tabletop games.
Emergency rooms nationally have improved their images by reducing the numbers of patients who leave prior to treatment and attracting more patients with reduced wait times and better medical experiences. They've also become the gateway to increasing in-patient admissions and revenues.
Chief of nursing Marge Keck, 57, estimates that 10 percent of patients arrive by ambulance and that her staff is diligent about getting EMT personnel back on the road.
"We have enough beds available to treat all types of illness and injuries," she said. "Our triage system is streamlined and clinically the patients are well served as they go through the proper channels of care."
Pasco Regional has 150 medical staff members, including 27 specialties, who collaborate with the ER staff to make diagnoses and conduct follow up. In addition, the Pasco Regional staff works closely with hospitalists — independent physician contractors who assume responsibility for patients without primary care providers.
Hospitalists facilitate uninterrupted care from the ER to an in-patient bed.
Pasco Regional's ER project, which will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting and open house next week, is among the hospital expansions under way across the county.
Community Hospital in New Port Richey will become the Medical Center of Trinity when it moves into its new facility along State Road 54, likely next month. Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, which remains in New Port Richey, is remodeling and enlarging its operating rooms.
Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point got the green light in November to operate a trauma center in its emergency department. Florida Hospital Zephyrhills plans to open a breast health center this year. And the concave facade of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel is rising on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, with a sign that promises a fall 2012 opening.