At Wednesday’s Medical Center Operating Board meeting, University of Virginia Health System leaders presented a preliminary plan to renovate and expand the Emergency Department and potentially add operating rooms and inpatient rooms.
Expanding the Emergency Department will provide a better experience for patients, many of whom have their first encounter with the Health System through the Emergency Department. The demand for emergency care frequently exceeds the department’s 43-bed capacity; an additional 17 beds can be made available in hallways when the department is over capacity, said Bo Cofield, associate vice president for hospital and clinic operations.
The expansion is needed to accommodate not only the existing demand for emergency care, but for a possible increase in patients in the coming years. Based on the experiences of other states, the number of patients visiting the Emergency Department will likely increase if Virginia expands Medicaid, said Dr. Robert O’Connor, who chairs the Department of Emergency Medicine.
“It will behoove us to have as nice a facility as possible and provide as nice an experience as possible,” he said.
Under the preliminary plans, the Emergency Department would be expanded to as many as 80 beds, including an eight-bed psychiatric unit and a clinical decision-making unit to help determine whether patients should be admitted or can be safely discharged.
Early cost estimates for the expansion range from $119 million to $145 million. Health System officials hope to gain final Board of Visitors approval by November and begin construction in summer 2015, pending state approval. The renovation and expansion is projected to take 30 to 36 months.
Hospital leaders are also considering the construction of additional “interventional rooms,” which could include operating rooms or procedural rooms, as well as additional inpatient beds. The interventional rooms and inpatient beds would be built on top of the expanded Emergency Department. Depending on how quickly planning progresses, the interventional and inpatient rooms could be built at the same time as the Emergency Department expansion or at a later time.
In other business Wednesday, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Richard P. Shannon laid out five core values that will drive the Health System over the next five years. The Health System:
- Will be the safest place for our patients to receive care;
- Will be the healthiest place to work, both physically and emotionally;
- Will offer the very best clinical care available in Virginia;
- Will focus on the betterment of the human condition through biomedical research; and
- Will commit to training health care workers as teams across the expanding continuum of care.
The core values purposely do not mention the Health System’s financial performance, Shannon said, because “providing the right care for the right patient in the right place is the economically right thing to do.”