Faced with an increased demand for emergency medical services, Beaufort Memorial Hospital is moving ahead with plans to beef up its Level-3 emergency room. The multimillion dollar expansion project could add as many as nine beds to the 18-bed unit.
"It's on the top of our priority list," said Beaufort Memorial Hospital President and CEO Rick Toomey. "The volume of patients we're seeing each year continues to increase, making it necessary for us to expand the physical plant if we are going to meet the needs of our community."
Over the past few years, the ER staff has had to improvise to find space to treat patients. An additional bed has been squeezed into each of the four resuscitation rooms, and on busy nights, patients are treated on stretchers in hallways.
Hospital emergency rooms typically average 1,750 patients a year per bed. Last year, Beaufort Memorial's ER served approximately 37,000 people or 2,055 patients per bed. Over the next 10 years, that number is expected to jump by as much as 10,000 visits a year, requiring an additional nine beds to meet industry standards.
But adding beds could prove to be a challenge. The complexity of the site -- bounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, century-old live oaks and already-tight parking conditions -- leaves little room for the hospital to grow beyond its existing footprint.
One option being considered is to relocate the adjoining administrative offices and convert the area for ER use. Besides adding beds, space is needed to expand and improve the nurses' station, physicians' work area and public waiting room, and to create contamination facilities to handle patients exposed to hazardous materials.
Whatever changes are made to upgrade the unit, the renovation will need to be implemented in phases to ensure a smooth transition. Toomey said the ER must remain open and serving patients at all times.
It is expected to take seven to 10 months to create a full set of architectural plans for the renovation. Once the scope of work is determined, Beaufort Memorial administrators will apply for the required Certificate of Need from the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control. Construction could take as long as a year to complete and cost from $5 million to $10 million.
The Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation has earmarked proceeds from its 21st Annual Valentine Ball for expansion of the facility, recently renamed the George N. Pratt & Sarah Meyer Pratt Emergency Department. In its first five years, the fundraising event raised nearly $240,000 for emergency services and critical care equipment.