With upgrades in place, Saint Francis Medical Center's emergency room is treating more patients in less time

Monday, August 30, 2010
David Derickson, radiology technologist, shows the c-arm direct radiography equipment that can be moved between the three trauma bays in the emergency room at Saint Francis Medical Center. The device produces X-ray images that can be viewed in seven seconds. (Fred Lynch)

EDITOR'S NOTE: A name in this story was corrected.

New features at the new Gene E. Huckstep Emergency Center at Saint Francis Medical Center are helping its staff treat more patients in less time.

The ER at Saint Francis saw about 100 more patients each month from April through July this year, compared to the same time last year, said Marilyn Curtis, vice president of professional services at Saint Francis.

She attributed the increase to news about the facility spreading by word-of-mouth. For now, the new ER, which opened in April, has 11 patient rooms -- the same number as the old ER.

Once staff moved out of the old ER location, renovations began on additional treatment facilities to be completed in February.

Stephanie Harris, CT scan technologist, views images made by a CT scanner in the emergency room at Saint Francis Medical Center. (Fred Lynch)

"We still have upgrades going on so we do not have the increased capacity to see patients yet," Curtis said. "I'm really proud of our staff and physicians who have stepped up to meet this challenge."

Having a CT scanner inside the ER has helped with patient turnaround time, Curtis said.

Patients don't have to be sent to other areas of the hospital to have scans done. The latest digital x-ray equipment also speeds up diagnosis time in the new ER.

Each patient room in the ER is universal, so people don't have to wait for a specific room to open up if they have special needs like obstetrics or pediatrics, Curtis said.

"Every type of patient can use every room," Curtis said.

Each medical specialty has its own mobile cart that staff can bring into the patient's room, shortening wait times.

"Our treatment time has decreased, and we've also seen a decrease in the number of people who leave before being seen," Curtis said.

The ER's expanded waiting area has also garnered positive feedback from patients, Curtis said.

"When you are sick, you don't want to sit right next to another sick person. It's allowed people to spread out more and not be as confined," she said.

The new ER also has a triage nurse at the check-in desk to immediately assess patients, Curtis said.

When the second phase of the new ER opens next year, there will be 26 private patient rooms. There will also be three trauma rooms, two triage rooms and a special procedures room.

Starting in July, the hospital began hiring additional doctors, nurses and medical technicians to staff the expanded ER, Curtis said.

"We're gradually adding them so when our expansion is completed, our staff will be ready," Curtis said.

Each year about 33,000 patients come to Saint Francis for emergency care, according to Dr. Kevin Hammond, director of emergency services. About one in five is admitted to the hospital for further treatment.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

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211 Saint Francis Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

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