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Emergency Center Upgrades Result in More Efficient ER Visits; ER Visitation Reinstituted

Albany, Ga. – Phoebe recently completed a renovation project and process improvements, creating a safer environment in its main emergency center and resulting in quicker visits for emergency patients. “Safety is our top priority, and these upgrades were designed to further enhance the safety of our patients and staff,” said Joe Austin, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer. “We are also determined to improve the patient experience. We know it’s never a good day when you have to visit an ER, but we want to make the process more efficient and ensure all patients receive timely, high-quality care.”

Patients will notice the changes immediately upon entering the emergency center. The new, more secure entrance will be staffed by a clinician who will promptly begin the triage process. “We can check the patient’s oxygen level and ask a few questions that will help us determine if they need to be taken to a room for immediate emergency care. This process will also help us identify patients with symptoms of COVID-19 right away,” said Mandy Hall, RN, Emergency Center Director.

The renovations include a new, separately ventilated waiting room for suspected COVID-19 patients and four additional negative pressure exam rooms where COVID-19 patients can be safety treated, preventing exposure to other patients. Phoebe also added a designated treatment area that can accommodate up to 20 patients being administered medication or waiting for lab work, as well as a 22-bed observation unit on the second floor of the hospital for emergency patients who require a short stay for monitoring, testing, therapy and assessment before they can be safely released.

“Our ER is extremely busy. Unfortunately, we often have more emergency patients than treatment rooms. The new designated treatment space and the observation unit create new areas where we can provide appropriate care for patients, while freeing up patient care rooms,” said James Black, MD, Phoebe Putney Health System Medical Director for Emergency Services. “This will reduce wait times and create more efficient workflow for our hardworking ER staff.”

Because of the upgrades, and a leveling off of COVID-19 cases, Phoebe will reinstitute limited visitation in the emergency center. “We know it is extremely difficult for patients in the ER to be separated from their loved ones, but we simply have not been able to allow safe visitation, until now. Beginning Nov. 2, we will reinstitute limited visitation in the ER. We know this will be a big relief to patients and their families, and we are pleased to provide this service,” said Evelyn Olenick, DNP, RN, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chief Nursing Officer. Each patient will be allowed to bring one visitor into the main emergency center waiting area, as long as proper social distancing can be provided. One visitor will be allowed into patient care rooms. Visitors must remain in those rooms and will not be allowed in the new designated treatment area. 

A significant increase in trauma cases recently has created a need for additional areas to care for trauma patients. “We added two trauma rooms, allowing us to provide the highest level of care to more trauma patients at the same time. It’s also another step in our journey to earn designation from the state as a Level II Trauma Center,” Dr. Black said.

Including all those new elements in limited space was not easy. Austin said he’s extremely proud that the Phoebe operations staff was able to pull off the upgrades quickly, and he said Phoebe is still moving forward with plans to build an entirely new emergency center on its main campus. “The COVID-19 pandemic stalled our design work a bit, but it also taught us some important lessons and gave us a chance to step back and re-evaluate what an emergency center needs to be in a post-pandemic era,” Austin said. “We are incorporating those lessons in our design work now and will construct the biggest, best, safest and most efficient emergency center in our region.”