GW Hospital to expand emergency room services

The GW Hospital began construction last week to expand its emergency department to combat the soaring number of patients over the last decade.

Plans for the 3,500-square-foot expansion, which has been in the works for about a year, correspond with a 34-percent spike in emergency room patients since 2003. The hospital’s patient spike coincides with D.C. population growth.

About 60 percent of the hospital’s patients are admitted through the emergency unit, but operations will not be disrupted during the construction, hospital communications manager Steve Taubenkibel said.

The $2.8-million upgrade will take over existing office spaces to provide additional patient care bays, as well as minor and major care bays and another triage booth “to support increasing emergency department volume,” he said.

“This project will help meet the current demand and is proposed to increase the efficiency…thus decreasing potential wait times for those patients seeking care and increasing patient satisfaction,” Taubenkibel said.

Most emergency department patients are seen within 11 minutes, he said. The spokesman declined to provide an estimate of how many minutes the expansion would shave off wait times and how many total beds would be added to the unit because the hospital would need to conduct further research to determine a figure.

Georgetown University Hospital has likewise seen a jump in patients visiting its emergency unit, “from about 22,000 patients to about 36,000 patients in the early years of the millennium,” Chief of Service for the Department of Emergency Medicine Brendan Furlong said.

Furlong said though there was a dramatic increase in patients from 2001 to 2008, figures for the past few years have remained relatively flat.

The GW Hospital’s emergency department expansion will strengthen its position “as a regional tertiary care facility by being able to accept patients more readily,” Taubenkibel said.

The project is expected to be completed by the fall.

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