October 3, 2008

ER Gets a Healthy Boost

By Philip Marcelo

PAWTUCKET Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island unveiled yesterday a renovated emergency room, following the trend of major hospitals away from paper records in favor of digital data readily available at patients' bedsides via wireless technology.

The emergency room will also feature a new communications system allowing rescue workers to electronically transmit electrocardiogram, or EKG, data to the department before arrival.

The system, the first in the region, will help doctors and staff better prepare for the incoming patient, according to Dr. Liudvikas Jagminas, chief of emergency medicine.

Though the $3.5-million wing will not be open until next Wednesday, hospital officials, joined by Major James E. Doyle, held a ceremonial ribbon cutting in the department's main hall.

Memorial Hospital President and CEO Francis Dietz said in his remarks that the new space represents a "staggering difference in appearance and functionality" for the emergency department.

Jagminas, the emergency department head, said that the project focused on improving patient security and privacy while also bolstering the general efficiency of the department and cutting down patient wait times.

There are 12 private examination rooms, set off by floor-to- ceiling curtains around a main administration desk, giving ER patients more privacy than they had before, as well as two negative- pressure isolation rooms, for patients with contagious or communicable illnesses.

A large flat screen monitor on a wall behind the main department desk lists all patients being served in the ER. The screen is connected to patient monitoring systems in the rooms and also tracks pending test results.

"All of it helps keep us in closer contact with patients," said Jagminas. "It's a well thought out project."

In the triage area, a nurse will monitor a new two-way communications system to be linked with all EMS and ambulatory services so that patient data can be transmitted to the department before the patient arrives.

Nearest the ambulance entry are the critical care rooms, much larger patient spaces that will be for the patients needing the most immediate attention. On the other side of the ER will be the "Fast Track Area," for patients with less serious injuries that can be treated simply and quickly (more details about the new space is available at www.mhriweb.org).

The new department is about 1,200 square feet larger than the original, making it about 15,000 square feet (the hospital encompasses about 450,000 square feet. It is the fourth time under Dietz that the emergency room will have been rebuilt or relocated, with the last major work completed in 1987.

Mayor Doyle, who offered his remarks in place of U.S. Rep Patrick Kennedy, who was unable to attend, said that there is a special need for the hospital in the city, which has traditionally had a high elderly population.

The ER renovations are part of the hospital's larger capital improvement project and proceeded in phases so that emergency room functions could continue while parts of the space were under construction, according to Dietz.

"It was a logistical challenge," he said.

Al Degen, chairman of the hospital's board of directors, said that a capital campaign to pay for the work is ongoing. The hospital has raised $1.7 million in outside funding, including a $700,000 federal grant secured by Kennedy, he said.

Construction continues on a permanent decontamination room across from the emergency room, where there will be showers and a water filtration system specifically designed to treat contaminated wastewater.

Previously the hospital, like many, set up a temporary, outdoor tent for decontaminations.

Memorial Hospital, a 294-bed hospital on Brewster Avenue, has been in operation for more than 100 years and its emergency room serves nearly 32,000 patients annually, according to the hospital.

Mayor James E. Doyle speaks at a ceremony celebrating the new emergency department at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island. Seated next to him is Dr. Andrew Artenstein, physician-in-chief. The Providence Journal / Kathy Borchers

[email protected] / (401) 277-7493

Originally published by Philip Marcelo, Journal Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Providence Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.