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Hospital's emergency department to be renovated for increasing patient volume

The emergency department at Emory University Hospital will double in size when renovation is completed.

Walk into any hospital emergency department (ED) during peak hours and you are likely to find people waiting while physicians and nurses address first the most urgent cases. The ED at Emory University Hospital (EUH) is no different.

When ED physician Matthew Keadey arrived at EUH in 2000, he and his colleagues saw approximately 15,000 patients annually. Today, they see 36,000, and in just three years, they expect that number to climb to 44,000—all in an ED space that was never meant to be an ED. (Up until 1998, EUH didn't have an official ED.)

"I liken our space to a hermit crab," says Keadey. "We had a shell, and we backed into it."

Keadey, though, is pleased that relief is in sight. EUH will begin renovation of its ED in August, taking the current 9,600-square-foot space to 19,000 square feet. The number of exam rooms will increase from 21 to 32, and all will be private rooms. Most of them will be 144 square feet with a standard design, so health care providers can find supplies in the same place in each room.

Space will be better designed, Keadey says, with patient rooms located in the line of sight of the nursing station. (The current "shotgun house" style has patient rooms off of a long hallway.) Non-ED foot traffic will be reduced, with the establishment of a separate ED entrance. The waiting room will be expanded, and the intake area will be more private.

The ED also will gain imaging capabilities (X-ray and CT scan), valuable time-savers considering EUH's patient population, says Kate Heilpern, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the medical school.

The average ED in the United States admits 12percent of its patients. Emory University Hospital's ED admits 38percent because it receives some of the area's sickest patients.

"The volume in every ED is growing," says Heilpern, "but we have a more complex patient population at Emory University Hospital that generally requires more time, more advanced imaging studies, and more laboratory studies to conduct an evaluation."

To give the ED more room, 5,700 square feet of lab space will be moved to basement level. The current occupants of the basement—risk management, employee health, and security—will move to the second floor, after patient financial services moves to the Emory Healthcare North Decatur office this month.

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