TARPON SPRINGS — Even before the pandemic, the emergency room at AdventHealth North Pinellas was far from ideal.
Located on the hospital’s second floor, it was a challenge to reach for injured patients arriving by car. The 1980s era emergency room did not have private rooms and relied on curtains to partition patients. And at just 6,000 square feet, it often operated close to capacity.
That all changes Tuesday when AdventHealth is set to open a new $20 million emergency department at the Tarpon Springs hospital.
The facility was planned before the pandemic and was intended to meet growing demand for localized ER care in north Pinellas.
It will immediately be pressed into service dealing with the influx of COVID-19 patients struggling with the respiratory virus. The company’s six hospitals across Tampa Bay are tending to more than 600 coronavirus patients.
The new ER’s 18 private rooms mean patients with the contagious virus can be more easily separated. There are also two trauma rooms for patients who “code” — a hospital term for patients whose heartbeat stops.
It also has a “negative pressure” room specifically for patients with airborne infectious diseases. The room’s air-conditioning system can suck contaminated air out of the room so that it isn’t shared with the rest of the ER.
Providing patients with private rooms will improve the level of care they receive and make life easier for medical staff, said Dr. Michael Longley, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
“Patients feel more comfortable when they have their own space,” he said. “The hustle and bustle of the emergency room is removed from their anxiety.”
On Wednesday, construction workers were putting the final touches on the new 14,600 square foot facility, which broke ground almost two years ago. It is estimated to serve more than 36,000 patients per year.
It includes specialized treatment rooms for children, women and obese patients. It also has features designed to make life easier for patients and medical staff.
In patient rooms, wall-mounted connections allow nurses to hook patients to oxygen and heart-rate monitors on both sides of the bed. The strip lighting in the hallways is close to the side of the ceiling instead of being overhead, so it won’t hurt the eyes of patients being wheeled on gurneys.
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Wait times for paramedics dropping off patients should be reduced because the ER’s new ambulance bay can fit several emergency vehicles. There is also a break room for paramedics and other first responders.
And the state of the art facility is making use of an older technology: pneumatic tubes, which can send canisters containing blood samples and patient paperwork to the hospital’s laboratory in just 30 seconds.
Local hospitals in recent years have supplemented emergency departments at major hospitals with smaller free-standing emergency rooms. The North Pinellas ER is part of a larger 168-room hospital that specializes in cardiovascular medicine, emergency medicine, orthopedics and spine care among others.
The facility will help bring better emergency treatment closer to the community, said Jason Dunkel, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer.
It also fulfills a pledge AdventHealth made to improve the quality of patient care when it bought the hospital in 2010, he said. The company has spent another $20 million on renovations and upgrading equipment.
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