Emergency room opens at south Calgary hospital
By Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary Herald January 14, 2013
Dr. Yael Moussadji, medical director of the rapid access unit, walks past examination rooms in the new South Health Campus ER during a preview tour Sunday. The facility opens today.
Photograph by: Ted Rhodes , Calgary Herald
CALGARY — The city’s new mega-hospital is set to treat its first emergency patients Monday as the facility’s highly-anticipated ER opens its doors at 7 a.m.
Dr. Colin Del Castilho, the physician site lead for the South Health Campus emergency department, said the more than 160 doctors, nurses and other staff who work on the ward are ready to start treating ill or injured Calgarians seeking care in the ER.
And with the city’s other hospitals dealing with overflowing emergency departments and overall space crunches made worse by bad bouts of the flu and other seasonal illness, the emergency beds opening at the South Health Campus on Monday could help ease some of the pressure, Del Castilho said.
“I’m excited. To see this facility go from a farmer’s field to a nine-storey, massive complex with an incredible amount of technology, who wouldn’t be excited to work here. I certainly can’t wait for the doors to open,” he said on Sunday during a media tour before the department officially opens Monday.
“We’re ready to go. We’re just waiting for some patients to show up.”
Several other services are also opening Monday, including mental health emergency services, cardiac diagnostics and the bone and joint cast clinic.
Opening the ER is a huge step for the $1.3-billion South Health Campus, said Dr. Lloyd Maybaum, president of the Calgary and Area Medical Staff Society.
“It’s a very exciting moment. Calgarians have waited a very long time for it, for this hospital to open,” he said.
“It feels it’s really open when the emergency department is open.”
The ER has 30 beds, with room to double the space in the future as demand rises.
Of the beds, roughly 90 per cent are private, which is some comfort to ill patients and their families, said Terry Smith, emergency department manager.
Among the 160 staff, about one-third were recruited from outside Calgary, including nationally and abroad, Smith said.
The hospital ward also has a pediatrician on hand 12 hours a day. At least 10 ER doctors are stationed at the hospital, with others who will work some shifts as needed.
The new emergency department could see as many as 60,000 patients this year, Smith said.
Demand is expected to surge almost immediately.
The province is now in the grip of influenza season, which is putting extra strain on ERs, the front doors to hospitals. Calgary’s adult hospitals are also at full capacity, which makes it even more difficult to admit seriously ill patients from busy ERs into the crowded in-patient units.
“We’re expecting with the recent increases in the other departments due to the flu that we will definitely be busy. I think the other (city hospital) departments are hoping we can alleviate some of their volumes,” Del Castilho said.
At the South Health Campus, in-patient care units aren’t yet open. The first beds are scheduled to open at the end of February, with new beds opening in waves every six weeks. Once it’s fully operational at the end of this year, the new hospital will have 269 in-patient beds.
In the meantime, South Health Campus patients who’ve been triaged and can’t be sent home because they need further hospital care may be sent to the city’s other hospitals, Del Castilho said.
Up to 85 per cent of ER patients are discharged from the ward without needing hospital admission, he noted, adding it’s worthwhile to provide the new emergency beds even as the hospital continues its phased in opening.
“Opening a hospital is an incredibly complex process and to do that you have to have a phased in opening. We knew that emergency departments were at an all-time high in terms of the strain placed upon them, so why not open the emergency department first, alleviate some of that strain, and over time we’ll add that added capacity in a phased in manner,” he said.
The hospital is also opening today a new rapid access unit — the first of its kind in the province and focused on people who need a short but intensive period of treatment before they’re sent home.
The unit cares for patients who may have been referred there by their family doctor or sent up from the ER, and has a team of health-care professionals including a duty physician, nurse practitioners, RNs, physical therapists and pharmacists, said Dr. Yael Moussadji, medical director of the unit.
Patients such as those suffering from complications from diabetes, infectious diseases such as pneumonia or congestive heart failure are likely to benefit from the unit. Treating them in the intense, short-term beds could help take some of the load off the ERs, Moussadji said.
Until the in-patient beds are opened at the hospital, the rapid access unit could also provide space for patients stabilized in the ER awaiting admission.
The unique unit is one of the advantages of building a new hospital with the chance to draw on the best services already in place at other sites in Calgary and across Canada, Del Castilho said.
Last fall, the hospital opened its diagnostic imaging, neurosciences, and academic family medicine areas. So far, thousands of imaging exams have been performed, including 6,100 MRIs. The neurosciences clinic has seen about 3,000 patients and the family medicine unit has seen more than 2,300.
The hospital’s medical director, Dr. Cheri Nijssen-Jordan, said so far, about 1,500 of the health complex’s needed 2,400 staff are hired and the project is on schedule.
“This is an amazing opportunity for the city. We have the chance to have a brand new site that has state-of-the-art technology,” she said.
“We have fantastic staff, we have innovative thinkers, we’ve had tremendous design opportunities and to be able to open this in phases is an amazing chance for the zone.”
She said the city’s other ERs could soon see some improved waits as more patients come to the new emergency department.
“I anticipate we will definitely see an improved, positive effect on the other emergency department capacity.”
Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, said it’s great to see the new ER open, finally.
“Particularly with the stress right now, the pressure of the flu on emergency department and on beds, it’s very timely.”
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald