PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center will soon expand the size of its emergency department.
Vancouver Hospital kicked off a two-year construction project this week that will double the size of the existing emergency department, resulting in more rooms, modern amenities and a more private environment, according to a Press release.
“Our community continues to grow and the need for emergency care has continued to increase,” said Sean Gregory, executive director of PeaceHealth Columbia Network. “We look forward to an improved and expanded space to better meet the needs of the individuals and families we serve every day.”
The expansion will include an updated entrance with adjacent parking and increased parking space for cars and ambulances.
A 24-bed observation unit will be added on the second floor. The space will allow patients to receive care as soon as they arrive, eliminating treatments in hallways and reducing stays in waiting rooms.
A space for community partners will also be included on the second floor, where patients will find housing, addictions and food resources, as well as other social services.
“Our vision for emergency services is focused on holistic health – an approach that not only meets the immediate medical needs of our patients, but also connects them immediately with community providers to meet their health and needs at term after they are discharged from the hospital,” Gregory said.
The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2024. The current Emergency Department entrance will be temporarily relocated in the coming weeks to the Fifth Street northeast entrance to allow for construction.
“I am proud to support this project and invest in this major and innovative step forward for future health care in our community,” said Ron Prill, President of the PeaceHealth Southwest Foundation.
Unprecedented patient volumes
Clark County’s population is growing rapidly, and emergency departments at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center are often overwhelmed. When both emergency departments are at or near capacity, some patients are redirected to the Portland emergency departments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. Earlier this month, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center sent out a press release encouraging people with non-emergency medical conditions to consider alternatives to the emergency department for care due to unprecedented patient volume.
Emergency department volumes are on the rise across the country, according to PeaceHealth emergency department physician Dr. Eric Ferraris. Multiple issues are responsible for the high patient volumes, including staffing issues at hospitals and other healthcare facilities where patients leaving the emergency department are placed, including nursing homes and healthcare facilities behavioral, he said.
“If you have concerns about your health and you think it’s an emergency, don’t wait for it,” Ferraris said. However, he added that things like running out of medication are something more suited for an established primary care doctor.
“Now if you have chest pains or shortness of breath from high blood pressure, please we would like to see you for that,” he said.
If people are not receiving life-threatening or emergency medical care, they are encouraged to seek care through their established primary care physician or at a day care or emergency clinic.