Advocate Lutheran General Hospital is proposing a nearly $40 million renovation and expansion of its emergency room to alleviate crowding and reduce patient wait times, officials said.
The Park Ridge hospital is seeking approval from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which oversees health care construction projects, to add seven emergency treatment stations, an observation unit, and two operating suites. ER capacity would increase from 33 to 40 trauma rooms and treatment stations.
A hearing on the application is scheduled for Aug. 13 when a decision is likely from the board.
"We have a long-range facility master plan and this is really the first phase of that," said Damon Havill, vice president of business development for Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. "It's an important project for us because obviously the ER is the front door for many hospital patients."
Lutheran General is the only Level One trauma center in the Northwest suburbs with the next nearest one being Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.
In 2012, the hospital had 63,307 emergency room visits.
The overcrowding problem has been ongoing for several years, with a yearly increase of 1 percent to 2 percent in the number of emergency room patients, and with growing complexity of conditions for which clients require treatment, Havill said.
"We expect at least that demand to continue into the future, although there's some uncertainty around it with health care reform coming in 2014," Havill said. "More people are going to have access to health care. That number could certainly go up further. It may go down too, if more patients have a doctor. Right now, during peak times we have more patients than we have treatment stations."
The $39.6 million plan includes reconfiguration of the emergency room to improve patient flow, waiting areas, and access.
"Patients have to walk an incline to the entrance of the ER," Havill said. "If you are of a fragile health status, that's not ideal."
Havill said the hospital is proposing adding two operating suites because presently there aren't enough operating rooms. The new rooms would be large enough in size to accommodate some of the latest medical technologies.
"Today we have one of the most successful robotics programs in the region," Havill said. "These rooms will allow us to better accommodate some of the robotic equipment," as well as for bringing imaging equipment into operating rooms during procedures, which is becoming more common, he said.
"We just see the need for larger rooms to continue to grow," he added.
Adding observation rooms within the emergency department gives hospital staff flexibility in caring for patients who need to stay longer than the typical emergency room visit, Havill said.
Proposed improvements include reconfiguring loading docks and some of the support services, and improving circulation and parking in the rear of the hospital campus, where the emergency room entrance is located.
"We will have a dedicated parking lot for patients with the expanded ER," Havill said.
The patient parking lot would have up to 70 spaces. Existing associate and physician parking spaces will be converted to accommodate patients, Havill said.
The hospital already has a pediatric emergency room operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week within the emergency room space. The plan calls for creating separate waiting and treatment spaces for pediatric patients.
Havill said wait times to see a physician would improve for all patients.
If approved by the health facilities board in August, project construction could begin in November/December with a target completion of September 2016.