GW Hospital hopes to expand emergency department

GW Hospital representatives said they hope to expand the hospital’s emergency department this summer after the facility has seen a 34 percent increase in patients since 2002.

The hospital’s chief operating officer, Kimberly Russo, told residents at last week’s Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting that construction would increase the treatment and triage space at the ED by 3,500 feet.

“Since the new hospital opened [in 2002], the volume of the emergency department has increased by approximately 34 percent, with no change in the physical size of the department,” Russo said.

The hospital hopes to begin the $2.8 million project this summer, with construction expected to last about 4 months. Russo said the renovation is being funded with reserves of the hospital’s majority owner, Universal Health.

Planned renovations are “entirely interior,” Russo said, and will convert about 3,500 square feet of space used by the hospital’s admitting department into emergency department space.

She said the hospital wants to “decrease wait time and improve client satisfaction,” with the changes.

Six major clinical treatment bays will be added to the 26 already in use, and two more minor care “fast-track” bays would be created to bring that total to 13 stations. Plans also call for two triage bays to be updated and a third triage bay to be added.

Russo said hospital services won’t be interrupted during construction.

GW Hospital requested a letter from the ANC to proceed with the development process, and the ANC voted unanimously Wednesday to give the hospital a letter of no opposition.

Lisa McDonald, director of marketing for GW Hospital, said the ANC letter will be forwarded to D.C.’s State Health Planning and Development Agency and added to the hospital’s application for a Certificate of Need. Hospitals are required to obtain this certificate from agency for certain projects.

“The next step is for SHPDA to review the application and ask the hospital to submit additional information to clarify anything they do not understand or approve the application,” McDonald said.

The review is expected within 90 days.

ANC members had few concerns about the renovations, but chair Rebecca Coder asked if there was a way to alleviate the noise level of sirens from ambulances.

“We’re not anticipating an increase in the sirens or the noise from ambulance traffic,” Russo said.

Use of GW Hospital’s ER, which is a certified Level I Trauma Center, has increased an average of 5 percent annually since 2003.

The hospital estimates the population in its service area will increase at a rate of about 1.4 percent annually and that ER demand will match that population growth.

The emergency department treated 71,242 patients last year and admitted 10,617 according to hospital data.

Along with local residents, a significant international population uses the hospital due to the amount of embassies in the area, and others come from Maryland and Virginia for specialty services.

Russo said GW Hospital is the only acute-care general hospital in D.C. that pays taxes to the District – about $5.7 million in 2010 – and said by expanding its services it will be “contributing to the city’s economic base.”

After the ANC meeting McDonald explained that GW pays taxes since it is a for-profit hospital, while hospitals like the ones at Georgetown and Howard universities are non-profits.

GW Hospital also provided $7.7 million in uncompensated care in 2010.

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