23 rooms added to reduce wait times

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: August 9, 2006

Emergency rooms are notorious for long waits and crowded conditions. Regional Medical Center in Anniston hopes to reduce the amount of time patients have to spend in those conditions with 23 new private rooms for patients.

The new rooms, 11 of which opened July 24, are intended for patients who do not need surgery but who must stay in the hospital for illnesses such as flu or pneumonia or because they need monitoring.

In the past, crowding in the hospital’s 36-bed medical unit meant some people had to spend one or more nights in the emergency room.

“Emergency rooms are designed to treat patients on a short-term basis … so they’re not really designed for in-patient care,” said Joy Webb, vice president for patient services.

Webb said the new rooms will offer patients a more comfortable hospital experience.

“It’s just more suitable,” she said. “They can be private and get the care delivered in privacy.”

The plans for the new rooms have been in the works for about a year, Webb said. The hospital is seeking more nurses to be able to open the rest of the 23 beds.

“With the national nursing shortage, we’re in the middle of that, too,” Webb said.

The 11 new rooms have been full since they opened, said Elaine Davis, assistant vice president for patient services. That means the 36 beds in the older medical unit also have been full.

“Our goal is that everyone have a private room,” Davis said. “During peak season … that’s not always possible.”

The new unit could accommodate up to 35 patients if some of the rooms were made semi-private, with two beds to a room. Currently, each room includes a bed, private bathroom and chairs where visitors can sleep.

“The community relies on this hospital for most of its care, and we’re just very excited to get these beds,” Davis said. “(It’s) something as simple as the comfort of the bed they’re on, a stretcher versus a hospital bed.”

Webb said patients with medical diagnoses – like those who will stay in the new rooms – make up the majority of people admitted to the hospital.

“When patients are sick, any amount of time they have to wait is too long, they want to get out of the emergency room into a bed and feel like their treatment is continuing,” she said. “We like to do that as quickly as possible.”

Susan Williamson, director of community relations at RMC, said she didn’t know how much construction of the rooms cost. The unit was renovated from a same-day surgery area, which was moved to a different part of the hospital.

Williamson said the doctors and nurses have told her the new beds are helping to alleviate long waits in the emergency room.

“It has proven to work so far, to help ease that,” she said. “Of course, that’s kind of a fluid level.”

Webb said patients appreciate the greater privacy.

“The nurses, we hear, I think we were open a week and they’d already received flowers and a thank-you note from a family,” she said.

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