By C. Julia Nelson

Bluffton University head baseball coach James Grandey from Ohio was thrilled to learn the emergency department at Piedmont Hospital, which he credits for saving his life after the bus accident on March 2 at Northside Dr. and I-75, just got better.

“There’s no question, I received outstanding care,” Grandey said. “The paramedics immediately at the scene and the staff at Piedmont’s emergency department saved my life and will be able to save others with this new expansion.”

After more than two years of planning and construction, serving emergency patients has become more efficient with a $13 million dollar upgrade at Piedmont Hospital, 1968 Peachtree Rd. NW, in Buckhead. The upgrade rounds out a $100 million master plan, which began in 2005 and will be complete in 2008.

Administrative Director Nettie Klein said building the capacity of the emergency department (ED) is a significant achievement for Piedmont Hospital.

“(The expansion) was designed to better serve the capacity of patients; we serve about 55,000 patients per year,” Klein said. “We have a very acute patient population as emergency departments go.”

She said they expect to care for 75,000 patients in 2008.

Opening phase one of a four-part improvement plan on December 18, the new 30,500 square foot expansion of the ED encompasses a wide range of growth and improvement. It gives the emergency staff about 46,000 square feet of versatile space within which to care for patients.

Phase one creates a systematic way to organize patients based on the type of care needed. Four pods have been designated for critical care, acute care, a Clinical Decision Unit (CDU) and Fast Track patients.

Kathy Ludvigsen, BSN, head nurse of the emergency department, said patients with minor injuries such as lacerations or broken arms would be placed in the Fast Track area. Patients in limbo between being admitted and being discharged are kept in the CDU.

“The very critical, sick patients will be placed in the (Critical Care area) where the nurse to patient ratio will be 1:2,” Nurse Ludvigsen said. “When the patients get well enough, they will be moved to the acute care area.”

Phase one of the ED expansion encompasses 29 additional beds, bringing the total to 46. Each room is private and fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology including heart and blood pressure monitoring as well as a flat screen television.

Medical Director Dr. Macon Core said a key to insuring quality patient care is providing all private rooms in the ED. Despite the pod set up of classifying patient needs, all rooms are technologically capable to provide versatility in caring for any patient. Additionally, the new rooms also offer in-room patient registration.

“Every room is the same; they’re all monitored,” Dr. Core said. “Critical care or fast track patients – we can put any patient in any room.”

Additionally, the triage center offers a full-time physician during peak hours to provide faster, more efficient service.

“Our goal is every patient is seen by a doctor within 30 minutes,” Dr. Core said.

Phase two, which began when phase one ended, involves the renovation of existing rooms in the department. New spaces will include resuscitation areas, pediatric exam rooms, a psychiatric room and specialty exam rooms. This portion of the project should be finished in March 2008.

Following the completion of phase two, phase three will encompass a second public entrance and renovations to the triage and waiting room areas. Upon completion of phase three in the summer of 2008, phase four will add a new laboratory and a satellite pharmacy by the fall of 2008.

A few new perks featured in Piedmont Hospital’s ED include stretchers with scales, an easy way to get a patient’s weight, electronic cardiac and blood pressure monitors and stationary computers in every room in addition to mobile units.

“The patients will be in their room being taken care of first and the registrars will come by later,” Nurse Ludvigsen said.

By the end of phase four, AcuScan-Rx identification bracelets will give nurses a fool-proof way to identify patients and their medications. While the rest of the hospital has used these bracelets for a while, Piedmont’s ED will be the first to have implemented the bracelets in an emergency capacity.

“It charts the right patient, the right medication and the right dose,” Nurse Klein said.

“There will be less chance of any errors happening,” Nurse Ludvigsen added.

According to public relations representative Diana Lewis, another major piece to the improved ED is the incorporation of a centralized cardiac monitoring and EMS communications system, which will accommodate the Timely Intervention for Myocardial Emergencies (TIME) cooperative. In short, paramedics transmit electrocardiogram (EKG) information from ambulance to hospital when transporting cardiac patients. This allows hospital staff to appropriately prepare for the patient by accessing their heart rhythms before they arrive.

“In addition to the TIME cooperative, our expanded emergency services has a person dedicated to Emergency Medical Services communications and preparing the hospital for every emergent patient that EMS calls in to Piedmont,” Lewis said.

Local EMS paramedic David Harrelson is excited to work with Piedmont Hospital in light of the recent renovations, especially regarding the TIME cooperative.

“This is wonderful,” Harrelson said. “When you can take a cardiac patient and you call and talk to somebody like Kathy over the radio who knows what’s happening, you send in a telemetry strip, they look at it and by the time we get here the ball’s already rolling. From the time we walk in that door 21 minutes later, they’re being profused. That’s unbelievable; it’s amazing.”

Other additions to be seen over the next year include medication rooms, private family rooms, nourishment room for patients, a digital radiology system and additional radiology rooms and services.

Knowing how essential it was for Piedmont Hospital to be fully equipped to handle the bus accident last March, Coach Grandey shares in the joy of knowing the ED is only improving with this expansion.

“I’m very excited to hear that Piedmont will be able to grow,” Grandey said. “It will be a great addition.”

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