“We have the sheriff’s office here and the police department and a helicopter, which is part of the Tanner system,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System. “Everything here today is oriented around patient safety and what we’re doing to fulfill our mission, to improve and manage health care in the community.”
The exhibit also included a weigh-in station for Tanner’s promotion of its battle against obesity and a demonstration of the daVinci robotic surgery system which will make surgery less invasive and more comfortable for the patients.
The new emergency department will be put into operation on Feb. 7, when the old department will be shut down. The night crew on Feb. 6 will work its last shift in the old area on Feb. 6 and new patients coming in after 7 a.m. on Feb. 7 will go to the new unit.
“The staff has been training for this for some time,” Howard said. “It’s state of the art from the standpoint of equipment and information systems, so we’ve been busy training the staff for this opening.”
The new emergency department had been scheduled to open last August, but was delayed after a fire suppression water line broke and flooded the building with 12,000 gallons of water. The flooding left two inches of standing water in the structure and damaged drywall, doors, cabinets and flooring.
Howard said the new emergency department was designed with the help of the physicians and clinical staff.
“They had a hand in designing every aspect of it,” he said. “So we feel very comfortable that it’s laid out just the way they want it.”
Another new addition is a fast track section, where patients needing minor care can go to get faster service.
Dr. Tom Fitzgerald, who heads Tanner’s ER team, said the new department is the best he’s ever seen in its aesthetic appeal and providing quality of care for the patients.
“It’s really a patient-oriented emergency room,” Fitzgerald said. “Hospitals traditionally design work space to make their staff happy. This department is designed for the patients. Every room is designed the same, so that regardless of your complaint, we’re going to take care of you.”
He said all the hospital’s medical staff and nurses had input on the emergency department plans and worked to make it as patient friendly as possible.
Howard said the facility was built with the intention of taking care of the area’s emergency needs 20 years down the road, with the idea of it evolving into a major trauma center.
“We’re evaluating that right now and that’s something we think makes a lot of sense,” he said. “It’s a big step and there’s a lot to it, but we built this facility with that in mind.”
The nearest trauma centers are now in Atlanta. Howard said there’s a real need for one in this region.
“We’re reaching out now to Cleburne and Randolph counties in Alabama, and we’re beginning to get patients from Clay County,” he said. “We really think we could fill a big niche and a big need by looking at that (trauma center).”
The new emergency department has 40 patient beds, twice the number of the old department, and 32,000 square feet of space, more than three times the old unit.
The unit features four specially designed trauma rooms for patients with major injuries and separate entrances for ambulances, so the patients can be quickly brought in by vehicle or helicopter to the trauma area.
Diagnostic imaging equipment, including computed tomography (CT), ultrasound and digital X-ray, are available in the emergency unit so that patients needing these services don’t have to be moved to another area of the hospital.
A large waiting area includes digital communications and ample free parking is available in the nearby Clinic Avenue parking deck.