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New ETMC Athens ER and ICU open doors

ETMC Athens staff ‘ecstatic’ to offer expanded facility  

The sparkling new emergency department at ETMC Athens opened its doors to patients Tuesday morning, May 3. And although those who come to the ER are obviously not feeling their best, the reaction was nearly universal.

“Oh, this is beautiful,” said one early-morning visitor.

 Groundbreaking on the $32.4 million expansion project took place on a windy day in March 2010. And though the work is far from over, the reaping has begun. After the new ER welcomed patients Tuesday, the ICU moved staff and patients to its new space on Thursday.

It’s an exciting time at ETMC Athens.

“I’m ecstatic about how much more we’ll be able to serve our community with our expanded facility,” said Emergency Department Director David Williams. “And the staff members are excited as well.”

 ETMC Athens Tour  
ETMC Regional Healthcare System President/CEO Elmer G. Ellis (center, facing camera) stands among a group of individuals touring the new emergency and ICU departments at ETMC Athens just prior to staff and patients being moved in. They are pictured here in the ER waiting room. The new ER opened Tuesday, followed by the new ICU Thursday. Henderson County is growing, and this hospital is designed to accommodate that growth, said Ellis. There are a lot of people who need care here, and were blessed to be able to provide it. 

The new emergency department currently features 15 exam rooms that are larger than the old patient rooms, several with windows. In addition, there are two trauma rooms and a triage room than can be used as an exam room. Once remodeling of the old ER space is complete, five more patient rooms will be added, bringing the total number of available patient care rooms to 23 -- up considerably from the 14 rooms in the old ER. The emergency department sees, on average, 91 patients a day.

Right next to the ER and occupying the southwest corner of the expanded space is the new intensive care unit which opened Thursday. The new area has 10 spacious patient rooms, up from eight beds previously.

“We’re all very excited,” said ICU Director Kristi McCracken. “I think the additional space and the modern look are something patients really appreciate.”

The next department to occupy brand new space will be surgery, where there will be a new prep-and-hold area, five operating rooms (up from the current three), a recovery area and day surgery space. The surgery department’s move is expected to take place sometime mid-summer.

“Henderson County is growing and this hospital is designed to accommodate that growth,” said Elmer G. Ellis, president/CEO of ETMC Regional Healthcare System. “There are a lot of people who need care here, and we’re blessed to be able to provide it.”

On a tour of the 55,600-square-feet of new space earlier in the week, ETMC Athens Hospital Board member Rosemary Burns talked about what the expanded hospital represents to the people of Henderson County.

“Mr. Ellis always says the ER is the front door to the community, and I agree,” said Burns. “This expansion and remodel provides a wonderful, welcoming door for people.”

Several departments will continue to transition over the coming months. The OB department will expand its footprint to include the area previously occupied by the ICU. Among the gains for the OB department will be eight additional “labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum” rooms. The department currently has one LDRP room, which provides a spacious environment where expectant moms can, in most cases, stay throughout their hospital stay. All the existing postpartum rooms will be refurbished.

The radiology department will also expand, thanks to space made available by the adjustment of departments, and on the south side of the hospital, work continues on the parking and drive areas.

There is a palpable sense of pride among hospital staff members, which ER technician Judy Harrod may have summed up best.

“When people see this, they’ll be so surprised and pleased,” she said. “I already loved my hospital, but now I really do.”

Posted May 4, 2011