Officials at Ellis Hospital held an open house Sunday afternoon in an effort to show the public their hospital’s ability to handle more emergency department patients after its merger with with two other area hospitals.
Following complaints of waits up to eight hours to be seen by a physician when walking in for emergency services, Ellis President and CEO James Connolly said the goal now is to get patients into rooms within 30 minutes of arrival. This schedule does not apply to those arriving by ambulance and in need of immediate care, Connolly said.
“There were unacceptable wait times due to the initial shift in volume,” Connolly said. “The problem was there were not enough in-patient beds, and we’re taking care of that.”
The changes in volume of patients took place this summer when Ellis Hospital on Nott Street merged with St. Clare’s Hospital, now the McClellan campus, and Bellevue Women’s Hospital on Route 7 in Niskayuna, now run by Ellis as the Bellevue Woman’s Care Center. As the sole large-scale health care provider for Schenectady County residents, officials have been hurrying to ease concerns that people won’t be able to access emergency care in times of need.
Hospital spokeswoman Donna Evans said the waits were part of the transitional time after the merger, and also due to an unexpected rush of patients.
“More people came in faster than we anticipated,” Evans said. “Part of this open house is to thank people for their patience with us during this time.”
As part of the hospital tours offered throughout the day, people had a look at the 12 new beds added to the original 22 in the Emergency Department. Another five will open this fall, bringing the total to 39 available beds.
Connolly said the expanded number of beds will allow patients to complete their emergency department visit within 21⁄2 hours, including being placed in a bed within 30 minutes, seen by a doctor within another 30 minutes, and having lab tests run and reviewed in another 45 minutes. More improvements are in the works in months to come to better handle the influx of patients.
“Opening more beds is our short-term solution,” Evans said. “Longer-term, we’re going to renovate and upgrade the entire emergency department.”
Evans said the McClellan facility is still open for emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will continue providing these services for “at least the foreseeable future.” Evans said people are already becoming more aware of which facility they can head to in emergencies.
“There was confusion about what campus offered what service, and now we’re getting everyone acclimated,” Evans said.
Consolidation of the hospital facilities was required following the 2006 recommendations by the state Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also known as the Berger Commission after its chairman, Stephen Berger. The recommendations became state law in 2007.
About 200 visitors who attended the open house were led on tours through the quiet hallways to see the radiology department and a demonstration of the new computer-based system for dispensing medications. A portable computer is wheeled to a patient’s bedside. The system scans bar codes on the medicine containers and patient wristbands to ensure the proper dosage is being administered at the proper time. Drawers holding the medications are locked in between visits to the patients in their beds.
“Nurses still give the medications, but this system validates everything,” Carla Wyllie, emergency department nursing director, said.
In a waiting area, people at the open house picked up information and brochures on various health topics, including diabetes care, weight control and nutrition. Many took home samples of skin care products and travel-sized first aid kits.
“I was here years ago when a family member was sick, but it looks much bigger now,” Nancy Roberts of Schenectady said. “It’s not a place you want to come to, but everyone seems friendly and I think Ellis is still known as a very good hospital.”
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Categories: Schenectady County