LANCASTER, SC — There is barely enough room to turn around in Tammy Coopers temporary office at Springs Memorial Hospital.
Cooper, the clinical director for the emergency department, shares what was once the physicians lounge with three others. To get to her desk she has to squeeze by a portable computer used to enter patient data.
Cooper relinquished her office several months ago when Springs started a $4.4 million interior renovation. Her old office and adjacent space are being converted into four additional emergency department beds, increasing the total to 21.
The area for outpatient procedures is being revamped, and respiratory therapy is being moved, resulting in more space for the emergency department.
Hospital officials have studied the idea for at least three years as annual patient volumes have increased to twice what the emergency department was designed for, said Janice Dabney, the hospitals CEO. The space was designed for 19,000 patients, and Springs is seeing more than 36,000 a year now, she said.
We couldnt accommodate any more patients, Dabney said.
Adding exterior space was not an option for the land-locked hospital, she said. They had to look at creative ways to use existing square footage.
The renovated space will serve up to 60,000 patients per year, she said.
The emergency department can see upwards of 100 to 125 patients per day, Cooper said. The renovations will allow Springs to treat 40 more patients per day, Dabney said.
In designing the new emergency department, Springs officials studied the kinds of patients it serves. Emergency room patients generally fall into three categories, Cooper said: critical care, non-critical care and fast-track care for people with minor scrapes or minor broken bones, colds, the flu or ear aches.
Fast-track patients use the emergency department the most, Cooper said.
Because they are not critical patients they dont need a room with all the medical monitoring equipment. To keep rooms available for critical patients, Springs has created areas where fast-track patients can wait for lab results, X-rays or other scans.
Hospital officials hope the changes will reduce the door-to-doc time, which has been about 50 minutes recently. It was as low as 40 minutes.
Operations at the emergency department have continued through the renovations, with medical staff and construction workers sometimes working side by side. Construction areas have large fans to control the dust. The medical staff has taken additional precautions to keep the emergency room spaces free of possible infectious diseases.
Renovations are expected to be finished by January.
When renovations are complete, and if patient volumes increase as expected, Springs Memorial will add emergency department staff, Dabney said.
The hospital also recently opened a wound care center in space that was once used as doctors offices.
Springs also has reduced the number of beds it is licensed for, dropping 18 beds that were for substance abuse treatment. Springs request allowed the beds to be transferred to Rebound Behavioral Health, an inpatient treatment and rehabilitation program in Lancaster for a variety of addictions and behavioral health issues.
The hospital now has 213 licensed beds. Dabney said the average daily occupancy rate for beds is about 80 patients.