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Health

New digs planned for Harrison hospital's ER

| Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007

Alle-Kiski Medical Center officials are planning to break ground on a project that is expected to double the Harrison hospital's Emergency Department by 2010.

The $13 million expansion will go to bid in about 10 days, with a groundbreaking expected in early November, according to spokeswoman Linda Jaskolka.

AKMC's parent company, West Penn Allegheny Health System, will front the $13 million while AKMC officials work to recoup the money through state grants and a pledge campaign, said AKMC Chief Executive Officer Cindy Schamp.

"You can't get the money from the state until you spend it upfront," she said.

The expansion has been discussed since Schamp came to AKMC about four years ago, she said, but fundraising obstacles limited the project's scope.

"When I arrived four years ago, there was talk of an ED project, though it was much smaller in its scale," she said. "It was really more of a Band-Aid fix, pardon the analogy."

In 2005, AKMC officials launched a 501(C)(3) nonprofit trust to gather money for the expansion.

Schamp said about $7.5 million in pledges have been collected, with about $2 million anticipated during the course of the renovation.

The Emergency Department's 12 rooms will be used throughout the expansion, Schamp said.

As rooms become unavailable, patients will be shunted to wards that operate only during the day.

"We don't expect capacity to lessen, though it will take longer to construct," she said. "It was more important for us to do this right, for the consideration of our patients."

In addition to doubling the Emergency Department's size to 24 rooms, the project will separate the out-patient and emergency waiting rooms, improve traffic flow in front of the hospital and add specialized treatment rooms, Schamp said.

Separating the out-patient and emergency waiting rooms should stifle conflicts between patients, Schamp said.

"The flow is quite different when you're managing emergency patient and outpatients," she said. "It's often very complex and confusing for patients that are there for an edema to see someone going before them for a stress test."

A decontamination chamber with its own air and water flow also will be built to deal with industrial-accident and bioterrorism victims, she said.

The hospital's Citizens Ambulatory Care Center in New Kensington will receive cosmetic improvements to its cabinetry and emergency bay.

AKMC's Emergency Department was built 25 years ago to handle 20,000 patients a year, Jaskolka said. Last year, emergency room personnel serviced more than 34,000 patients, she said.

Schamp said the increased load stems from the Alle-Kiski Valley's aging population and emergency room closures at Citizens General Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center.

"I think what you will find, statistically, is emergency rooms around the country are congested," Schamp said.

It's also a growing trend for patients to ignore expensive medical problems until a trip to the emergency room becomes necessary, she said.

"Sometimes it's a personal choice and sometimes it's circumstance, so they only go when they're really sick," she said. "But when you're really sick, you need help immediately."

About Alle-Kiski Medical Center

Owner: Part of the West Penn Allegheny Health System.

Size: 250 beds in Allegheny Valley Hospital, Harrison.

Visits: Admits about 12,000 patients annually. About 8,200 surgeries done each year.

Emergency Department visits: About 33,000 patients were seen in the AVH emergency room last year. Another 14,000 patients receive care each year at the urgent care center in AKMC's Citizens Ambulatory Care Center in New Kensington.

Other: Operates A-K Pulsar emergency response vehicle; paramedic stationed at Pittsburgh Mills mall; education center at Pittsburgh Mills.

Alle-Kiski Medical Center

Emergency room plans

• Enlarge the Allegheny Valley Hospital ER from 9,000 to 22,000 square-feet in 24 treatment and exam rooms.

• Add special treatment rooms for pediatric, cardiac, orthopedic, psychiatric and gynecologic patients.

• Enlarge the waiting area for patients and families, and improve registration.

• Redesign the way people enter the ER and main lobby for greater privacy and improved patient flow.

• Add a seclusion room for psychiatric patients to allow for observation and safety; an isolation room; a decontamination room; and a bereavement room.

• Make cosmetic improvements to the Citizens Ambulatory Care Center, New Kensington.

Additional Information:

How to help

To learn about the Alle-Kiski Medical Center Trust and the emergency department campaign, contact: Nancy L. Giuliotti, executive director, AKMC Trust, 1301 Carlisle St., Natrona Heights, PA 15065 or call 724-226-7179. Her e-mail address is: ngiuliot@wpahs.org .

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