Tonawanda News

July 26, 2013

A vision attained

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Kenmore Mercy unveiled its new $14-million emergency department Thursday afternoon at a ribbon cutting and blessing ceremony attended by hundreds of hospital officials, employees and politicians.

“The opening of the new emergency department is a significant milestone in the 62-year history of the hospital,” James Millard, Kenmore Mercy president and CEO said. “After several years of planning and hard work, we are pleased and excited to deliver on our commitment to our patients and the community.” 

The facility, which sits on the south side of the hospital, was envisioned more than 10 years ago as part of Catholic Health’s $65-million effort to redo all of the emergency departments in the system. 

“This is the last one, and they saved the best for last,” Reverend Monsignor Robert Zapfel, chair of the corporate members and sponsors board, said at the ceremony. “We learned from those that came before us.”

The process was officially started in March 2011, when the state granted the certificate of need for the hospital. Site preparation began in August 2011, and the groundbreaking took place in March 2012. 

“We began designing this a few years ago,” Millard said. “And have meet every week for two, three, four hours ... we are here to celebrate our new facility and thank those who have worked so hard on it.”

The 24,000-square-foot unit, which was designed by Kideney Architects, is nearly two times larger than the original department, and the facility has 23 private patient treatment rooms. The new department is designed to handle 40,000 patient visits per year. 

Raquel Martin, the medical director of Kenmore Mercy’s emergency department, said the facility also has a fast-track area for patients with minor medical problems, such as sore throats and lacerations. 

“Up until now, those patients were always treated after those with more urgent medical emergencies,” she said. “But now, their wait time will be decreased.”

Each room also has its own flat-screen TV for patients, and the facility is also equipped with a centralized nurses station, an ambulance bay and digital radiographic equipment that eliminates the need for patients to be moved. 

The facility is also equipped with two resuscitation rooms, a decontamination suite for ill patients and a bariatric room, which is designed for obese patients and includes a bed and hoist system capable of lifting a person weighing up to 1,000 pounds. 

“The new department will allow the hospital to improve its processes ... it is not just a nice piece of real estate,” Dennis Dombek, the chairman of the Catholic Health board of directors said. “This is another jewel in the crown of Kenmore Mercy.” 

Celebrations will continue Saturday with an open house for the public. Children are welcome to bring along a favorite doll or stuffed animal for an “ER check up” during a teddy bear and doll clinic. The event will also feature presentations by the hospital’s pharmacy department, the Town of Tonawanda paramedics and the Kenmore Village Fire Department. 

The new ER will then begin serving patients in the morning of July 31, and the old ER, which was built in the 1960s, will be reused for locker rooms and other purposes. 

Although the hospital’s multimillion dollar addition is completed, the work is not over. Contractors are still completing work on a new orthopedic unit, which will occupy the second floor above the emergency department. 

The facility, which will cost $5.8 million, will house 24 spacious private rooms, a staff lounge and two nurses’ stations, as well as a rehabilitative gym for therapy.  The unit is set to be complete in September.

The hospital has also recently received approval from the state Department of Health for yet another project — the addition of two operating rooms and the renovation of the eight existing ones.

The new rooms will be 600 square feet, bigger than most of the existing eight, and will be added to the rows of operating rooms on the first floor near the center of the hospital.

The project will cost $3.8 million and will be complete in the first quarter of 2014.

-- Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley