(Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles, originally appearing in the Daily Local News, depicting the new features and the new technology incorporated into the expansion of Chester County Hospital.)
WEST CHESTER, PA - The first thing visitors to the Emergency Department at Chester County Hospital will notice is the enhanced security.
Located on the first floor of the hospital, the Emergency Department expansion and renovation will begin its transformation this spring. A result of the massive, $300 million expansion project, portions of the existing Emergency Department will still be in use, but over the next 22 months its existing 23,000 square-foot unit will be renovated in phases to better serve the community. Despite the changes, the Emergency entrance and parking lot will still be located along East Marshall Street.
Eventually, there will be 43 private rooms, 10 more than is available now. There will be three triage rooms to expedite patient care and a helipad to allow for rapid transfer of complex cases.
The Emergency Department will have a dedicated elevator and staircase that connects to the Knauer Family Lobby, allowing families to access the new Bistro featuring Starbucks coffee, Gift Shop, Outpatient Pharmacy and courtyard.
The Emergency Department expansion is scheduled to open in early spring of this year, followed by three phases of renovation to the existing unit.
Perhaps the most unique change that patients and visitors will notice is the new security features, which are not typically found in suburban hospitals. These include a metal detector, x-ray bag screening and security staff on duty 24 hours a day.
"We spent a lot of time considering these measures and even visited other hospitals that have these safety interventions in place and felt adding them was in the best interest of our patients and their families, as well as our staff," said Michael Duncan, president and CEO of Chester County Hospital. "When the patient and family is in here, the only thing we are thinking about is their safety and their care."
Duncan said the metal detector and x-ray screening is much like the security at the Chester County Courthouse.
"The community figures out quickly that if you have anything on you, you leave it in the car," Duncan said. "We will be the first suburban hospital in our region to have (this type of security). We wanted to be proactive, and not reactive, should a safety event occur. It will elevate the care we provide and our family, friends and neighbors will feel a lot safer when they are here. We are going to go out of our way to make it as friendly and as smooth as possible. We do not want anything distracting us from focusing on the care of each patient."
Duncan said the average wait time to get through security will be two minutes or less, and on many occasions, much faster, so that there will not be any delays in care. It will be staffed around the clock by a security officer.
Alfred I. DuPont Hospital in Delaware put in a similar security system about five years ago and officials there have reported few complaints. The number of knives and guns at entry at DuPont has gone down in every year the system has been in operation.
The new security measures have the endorsement of the hospital's Patient and Family Advisory Council, a consulting group consisting of current and former patients and patient family members.
The new Emergency Department, when completed, will be one of the most technically advanced in the region.
And even in the event of an extreme natural disaster where power is out for days, or even weeks, the hospital won't miss a beat.
"We have two different leads from the public power system, and if one goes down, we can still operate normally," Duncan said. "And if both go down, we have multiple generators sized to keep everything running.”
The waiting room features an abundance of natural light providing spectacular views of Chester County, PA. There will be plenty of spaces for family members to sit and relax after bringing a loved one in to the Emergency Department.
"Sometimes they (family members) are more stressed out than the patient is, so having areas for them to relax is important," Duncan said.
And navigation in the hospital has been made easier because floors are designed around color palates which helps to make patients and visitors remember where they are.
Hospital visits often turn into overnight stays.
"We encourage families to stay with their loved one," Duncan said. "In every patient room there is a sofa where you push a button and a bed folds out."
The new rooftop helipad has direct access from the Emergency Department and will quickly get people with severe injuries and ailments the help they need fast at our sister Penn Medicine facilities in Philadelphia, Duncan said.
The rooftop helipad has the added endorsement from PennStar pilots (the Health System’s helicopter) as they have shared that they would much rather land their helicopter on a roof than on the ground.
TOMORROW: In the spring of this year, a new procedural suite -- just down the hall from the Emergency Department -- will open featuring 15 new operating rooms, a post-anesthesia care unit and new prep and recovery areas will open at Chester County Hospital. The rooms will have multiple 75-inch monitors that will help surgeons visualize the procedure and share real-time information about the patient and collaborate more efficiently.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: