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AMI emergency room has growing pains

TOWN 'N COUNTRY - AMI Town & Country Hospital has been experiencing some growing pains lately. The cure: Hammers, drills and clouds of dust.

AMI is renovating its emergency room and adding 6,000 square feet to its 3,600 square-foot center, hospital officials said.

When the dust clears in May, the new emergency room will have a 40-seat waiting room, 11 treatment rooms, vending machines, restrooms and a pay telephone, said Denise Fisher, chief operating officer of the hospital.

The $700,000 project at AMI began in December. Hennessey Construction is doing the work.

"The (emergency room) is the window to the rest of the hospital," Fisher said. "We didn't feel like we were putting our best foot forward with the facility we have."

Because of continuing growth in the state, more people are walking through the hospital's doors with fractured arms, cuts and bruises.

George Fayer, the hospital's chief financial officer, said the number of patients coming to the emergency room each year has grown since opening in 1980.

Now, patients wait an average of 30 minutes for treatment, said nurse Linda Owens, who coordinates patient care for the emergency room.

Although the hospital has never had to turn away patients, more treatment rooms will mean shorter waits.

Owens said she has increased the size of the nursing staff in anticipation of more patients.

"We are hoping it is going to give us a competitive advantage (over area hospitals) and show a better side of the hospital," Fisher said.

But Fisher said AMI won't try to compete with the trauma centers at Tampa General Hospital or St. Joseph's Hospital.

The trauma centers, which are emergency rooms that treat such patients as shooting victims who need immediate surgery, have anesthesiologists and surgeons available to operate on patients around the clock, Owens said.

"We are hoping to take some of the smaller stuff off of them to leave them free to handle that trauma," Owens said.

Construction has not interrupted work in the emergency room, Fayer said. A protected walkway was built around the construction site so patients can walk in and out of the emergency room, he said.

Once the addition is finished, emergency room workers will move in, Fayer said. Then renovation of the old emergency room will begin, he explained.