The Misericordia hospital’s new emergency department — which is nearly three times larger than the current ER — has been turned over from the construction company to Covenant Health.
But, before it can open to patients, lots of work has to be done, including running simulations of possible patient scenarios in the new space.
“What we’re doing today is simulations looking at some high-risk processes that we have vetted through the Health Quality Council of Alberta,” said Jacqueline Frost, unit manager of ED redevelopment. “Specifically looking at human factors, responses, and new processes that we have in the department that are different from our current workflows in our current ED at the Mis.
“High-risk processes, both process changes and safety threats potentially to staff or patients… patient flow, the patient experience in the emergency department, improvements that can be done.”
“So much of our orientation is planning,” said program manager Jessica Fryk. “How do we get people used to their new home? How do we get staff working safely in the space? And ensuring that we’re taking all the efficiencies that we can.
“Now that turnover has happened, we can start filling this big, empty building with equipment,” Fryk said.
“We have to operationalize that equipment. We need vendors to come in and set up their software. We need to get all our carts built, all of our supplies in, and then run through orientation with over 200 staff.”
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The target date for opening to patients is late fall, before the holiday season.
The existing emergency department, which was built in 1969, will stay open until the expanded one is operational.
“We will have more bed capacity,” Fryk said. “Our current space was designed for a 26-funded-bed unit and this will have 64. It’s just that the actual quality of the care spaces in this environment is much better.”
Not all 64 bed spaces will open immediately. Some will open when the ED opens to patients, with growth up to 64 beds.
There will be more rooms, she explained, more ambulance bays, and the patient flow will be more efficient.
“We currently have ED offload spaces for EMS to offload patients so that EMS can get back on the road,” said Frost. “Those spaces are cramped in a very small area in our current ED. In the new department, we have designated eight stalls where they can offload patients to — with all the proper equipment.
“Our ambulance space in the current ED, we have a maximum of space for four,” Frost said. “This ED, it’s actually grown to six. We can accommodate more ambulances at a time.”
Both Frost and Fryk said the design of the new emergency department is patient-focused. The enhanced space includes an abundance of windows, gardens and outdoor areas.
“The triage area here we have more privacy, we have sliding doors, we have curtains,” Fryk said.
“The intake area is more promoting patient flow and ‘How we can get people in front of a physician as fast as possible?’
“And then our very specific mental health population with that eight-bed specialized pod with – it’s a different environment. Bringing mental health patients into a hospital environment can be even more stressful in an already acute state. It puts them in the right place, with the right health-care provider at the right time.”
Instead of curtains separating patient spaces, there are sliding doors, Fryk said, and five negative pressure rooms, which makes isolating patients easier.
“Especially after the learnings from the pandemic, it’s huge,” Frost explained.
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The former NDP government announced the hospital expansion project in April 2017. It revealed the modernization would include a new ER, 34 additional treatment spaces, two more ambulance bays and two X-ray suites.
When the United Conservatives became government, they said the expansion would include space for six ambulance bays, “emergency waiting and treatment areas and diagnostic services.”
The current emergency department is 1,700 square feet. The new space is 5,000.
“Our current ED, and I think many EDs around Alberta, are experiencing a bed capacity issue, and that doesn’t stop at the emergency department. It’s hospitals,” Frost said. “So admission capacity is lacking… This doesn’t fix that problem but it helps us see patients in a bit of a better way that hopefully we will avoid some of that backlog.”
It also makes expanding capacity in the future easier.
“It’s nice to see it come to fruition when you’ve been engaged in each of the different stages through design,” Fryk said. “It’ll be great for our community, great for our patients. It almost triples in size in square footage and we have the ability to expand in the future with the growth of our community.”
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