Bigger and better

Feather River Hospital celebrates new, state-of-the-art emergency department with open-house festivities and tours

Feather River Hospital offers a sneak peek of new emergency facilities.

Feather River Hospital offers a sneak peek of new emergency facilities.

Photo courtesy of Feather River Hospital

“The wait is over,” announced the numerous, prominent banners hanging in various spots at the well-attended Jan. 26 open house of the new, state-of-the-art Emergency Department at Feather River Hospital in Paradise. Fifteen months of construction and $40 million later, the 17,000-square-foot-plus, state-of-the-art facility is complete, and scheduled to open this month pending a few signatures from the necessary inspecting agencies.

A happy Melissa Barnard, Feather River’s Emergency Department director, stopped to chat briefly before moving on to continue greeting the hundreds of people—mostly senior citizens—coming, going and milling around the various food and drink tables in the large tented area in front of the entrance to the spanking-new facility. Most of those in attendance were awaiting their turn to go on one of the many 10-minute-long tours being held offering a glimpse of the interior of the spacious new ER.

“We’re not opening yet,” Barnard said. “We’ve finished construction, and we’re putting on the last finishing touches before all inspecting agencies will sign off.”

“We are really excited about the expanded space—it’s a little more than three times the size of the current ER,” said Maureen Wisener, assistant vice president for foundation and communications at Feather River. “The wonderful thing about it is that it allows us to go from seven licensed beds in the [current] ER to 18 licensed beds. That’s more than double the number of licensed beds.”

Presently, the space that Feather River has in its ER is a little more than 4,000 square feet, Wisener said. “We will go to just under 18,000 square feet in the new space,” she added excitedly.

Feather River Hospital gets approximately 12 to 14 ER patients at a time, said Wisener. “What we have done [in the past] is we have created spaces to accommodate the volume of patients that we see. The challenge might be that there is just a cubicle curtain separating one patient from the next.” The new Emergency Department, with its 18 separate rooms, she pointed out, “gives each patient a private room with actual doors!”

In addition to being generally thrilled with its spaciousness and increased capacity, Wisener spoke of three aspects of the hospital’s new Emergency Department that she is particularly excited about.

Feather River Hospital foundation project manager Carrie Lambert leads a tour of the new ER.

Photo by Christine G.K. LaPado

First, said Wisener, “there will be a dedicated room for patients who require immediate care for life-threatening illnesses or accidents. It will be one of the 18 treatment rooms, but a larger one, to accommodate more equipment and staff.”

Also, a “decontamination room” will be available for patients who may have been exposed to toxic substances, “such as any chemical—dry or liquid,” Wisener said. “If a patient is filthy from some situation they’ve been put in, there will be a separate room for them to be decontaminated in prior to being placed in a treatment room.” Previously, such cases have had to be dealt with outdoors, near the entrance to the emergency room, so as not to contaminate people inside. Having a designated, indoor decontamination room “allows us to privately care for patients and allows us to keep them isolated in that room,” she said.

Finally, Wisener mentioned the “beneficial” location of the ambulance entrance to the new ER, which unlike the current ER setup at Feather River, is a rear entrance that is separate from the front entrance for the general public.

“It’s less disruptive,” Wisener pointed out of the new arrangement. “Previously, everyone [including ambulances] entered in the front. Everyone could see everything. It was very, very visible.” A separate entrance for ambulances offers “more privacy for patients in ambulances, as well as less disruption for anybody in the waiting area.”

Near a decorative fountain in a pretty garden area adjacent to the new emergency-room facility, Feather River Hospital foundation project manager Carrie Lambert spoke to the tour group she was about to lead inside the building. “The existing ER would fit in one-third of the new ER,” Lambert offered proudly, before adding that Emergency Department nurses will be tracked on a computer screen showing the location of every nurse and technician, “partly for noise control. You can’t yell out someone’s name [like in the old ER]—the new building is just too big.”

Lambert also announced that a “navigator” will be on hand at the entrance to the new facility 16 hours per day to provide such services as assisting people with wheelchairs and acting as a go-between for patients and their family members.

Five more registered nurses will be added to the ER staff, as well as a charge nurse “to keep the flow going,” she said. ER nurses will also be carrying wireless phones that will enable patients to contact them directly from their bed if they need assistance.

Inside the building, which had that distinct new-building smell, numerous groups of people led by tour guides bustled past each other; individuals stopped and peered over yellow caution tape into an empty room containing an as-yet-unused bed or down a hallway to another section of the circularly arranged emergency-department rooms.

“The new ER is one big circle,” said Lambert. The less-sick people will be housed in one section of the circle, the sicker in another section, not visible to the others.

“It’s not about the building. It’s about the care you’re going to receive,” Lambert said.