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Emergency room visits on the rise; Forbes Regional to expand ER

Forbes Regional Hospital said Tuesday that it will expand its emergency department on the heels of several recent expansions and renovations of emergency rooms at area hospitals.

The need for the $1.04 million expansion at the Monroeville hospital largely reflects increased demand because of this year's closing of UPMC Braddock hospital and Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital at Jeannette.

"Our volume continues to grow and will grow into next year," said Darlette Tice, vice president of operations and chief nurse executive at the hospital.

The expansion also reflects new programs -- including the open-heart surgery program that the hospital started in 2008, said Chief Operating Officer Tom Moser. People who suffer heart attacks can be taken to Forbes Regional and have open-heart surgery there if necessary.

"That is a very popular program," he said.

Nine treatment rooms will be added, along with eight exam rooms and one mental-health room. The expansion will be finished in December.

Emergency department visits at Forbes Regional have grown steadily since the facility's 2006 renovation -- from 37,000 that year to nearly 46,000 this year. Emergency visits are expected to increase to 55,000 next year, hospital officials said.

"While patients and staff alike have enjoyed the amenities of our most recent emergency-department renovation, that expansion has not been able to keep pace with our phenomenal growth," said Adrian D'Amico, medical director of the emergency department.

Increased used of emergency rooms is a trend nationally and in Pennsylvania, said Roger Baumgarten, a spokesman for the Hospital & Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania.

"We have seen a lot of hospitals in the state expanding their emergency departments. Emergency-department visits are up," Baumgarten said.

The closings of hospitals are one factor. Another reason is that emergency departments increasingly receive visits from uninsured patients who have no primary-care physicians, said Baumgarten. Federal law requires emergency rooms to treat everyone.

Forbes Regional is one of three hospitals in the West Penn Allegheny Health Systems to undergo recent renovation of ERs.

An $11.6 million renovation of the emergency department at Alle-Kiski Medical Center in Natrona Heights is under way. Canonsburg General Hospital's remodeled emergency department opened in 2008.

The UPMC health system is expanding emergency rooms at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland and at UPMC Mercy in Uptown. In March, UPMC Passavant in McCandless finished an expansion of its emergency department facilities.

In 2008, independent St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon opened a $13.5 million, expanded emergency department.

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