PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center will soon expand the size of its emergency department.
The Vancouver hospital launched a two-year construction project this week that will double the square footage of the existing emergency department, resulting in more rooms, modern amenities and a more private environment, according to a news release.
“Our community is continuing to grow, and the need for emergency care has continued to expand,” said Sean Gregory, PeaceHealth Columbia Network chief executive. “We look forward to an upgraded and expanded space to better meet the needs of the individuals and families we serve each day.”
The expansion will include an updated entry with adjacent parking and increased parking space for cars and ambulances.
A 24-bed observation unit will be added to the second floor. The space will allow patients to receive care immediately upon arrival, eliminating hallway treatments and reducing waiting room stays.
A space for community partners will also be included on the second floor, where patients will find housing, addiction and food resources, as well as other social services.
“Our vision for emergency services is focused on holistic health — an approach that not only attends to our patients’ immediate medical needs but also immediately connects them with community providers to address their long-term health and needs after they leave the hospital,” Gregory said.
The project is expected to be complete in summer 2024. The current entrance to the emergency department will be temporarily relocated in the coming weeks to the Northeast Fifth Street 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, chair of the PeaceHealth Southwest Foundation.
Unprecedented patient volumes
Clark County’s population is rapidly increasing, and the 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 emergency departments in Portland.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue. Earlier this month, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center sent out a news release encouraging people with nonemergency health issues to consider alternatives to the emergency department for care because of unprecedented patient volumes.
Emergency department volumes are up around the country, according to Dr. Eric Ferraris, a PeaceHealth emergency department physician. Multiple issues are responsible for high patient volumes, including staffing challenges at hospitals and other health facilities where patients leaving the emergency department are placed, including nursing homes and behavioral health facilities, he said.
“If you have a concern about your health and feel like it’s an emergency, don’t wait for that,” Ferraris said. However, he added that things like running out of medication is something more suited for an established primary care doctor.
“Now, if you have chest pain, or you’re short of breath with high blood pressure, please, that would be something we would want to see you for,” he said.
If people are not experiencing life-threatening or emergency medical care, they are encouraged to seek care through their established primary care physician or at a same-day or urgent care clinic.