Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans has relaunched its plans – delayed by COVID-19 – to modernize its emergency department and better serve patients.
Hospital spokesman Jonathan Billings said Tuesday the 9,300-square-foot emergency department dates back to the late 1980s and is outdated by today’s standards of patient care. To accommodate the changes the hospital wants to make, the project includes a new 2,400 square foot building that will be used to house a mechanical room currently occupying space in the ED.
The space freed up will be put to good use, according to Billings.
“For example, right now the emergency department has four curtain treatment bays, small areas separated from each other by curtains,” Billings said. “These become full, solid private treatment rooms with doors and walls, greatly increasing privacy, security and confidentiality. It requires more square feet. “
Lessons learned from the pandemic have allowed Northwestern to further refine its designs for the modernized ED, Billings said. He said the need for private rooms in the emergency room has become even more evident in the treatment of an airborne infectious disease.
Costs have gone up
Northwestern has an approved Green Mountain Care Board Certificate of Need for the project, but will have to come back to the board to update it on their revised plans. The Green Mountain Care Board oversees all aspects of healthcare in Vermont and must approve any major construction projects in hospitals and doctor’s offices by granting a Certificate of Need.
Billings said the pre-pandemic cost estimate was $ 7.5 million, but construction costs have risen significantly due to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. He said the hospital was working on updating the estimated costs, but did not yet have a new figure.
Another challenge is how to maintain emergency services once construction is underway.
“You’re playing a bit of a shell game, moving emergency care and then renovating the emergency department for the project,” Billings said. “So we have an old intensive care unit that has been set aside.”
The vacant space, which is close to the existing DE, will be converted into a temporary DE to clear the way for construction. Billings does not know when construction will begin.
“We’re heading into probably 10 months to a year of construction once we start,” Billings said. “We are closely monitoring the pandemic and the demands on the emergency department and our facility as a whole, and trying to determine the optimal start date.”
Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with the support of our readers.