Mercy Celebrates Holidays with a Gift to the Community – A New Emergency Department

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Pictured from left are Mike McCurry, Executive Vice President/Mercy Chief Operating Officer - Regional President, East Communities Lynn Britton, Mercy president and CEO;  Bill Miller, Mercy Hospital Washington Advisory Board director; L.B. Eckelkamp and Bonnie Eckelkamp, co-chairpersons for the Always Ready campaign, and Bret Riegel, medical director for the emergency department. In background: Terri McLain, president of Mercy Hospital Washington and Debbie Door, Foundation Board chairperson.

Washington, Mo. – After years of planning, fundraising and construction, the newly expanded and renovated emergency department at Mercy Hospital Washington celebrated its grand opening and will see its first patients December 6.

“This ED is a gift to the community from the people who cherish it most: community members and Mercy,” said Terri L McLain, president of Mercy Hospital Washington, at a grand opening celebration held Dec. 1. “Now we embark on the final phase of our work; now we turn ownership over to the medical professionals who work within these walls every day to ensure that our loved ones and everyone in our community receive the best possible care, and we thank them for their lifesaving efforts.”

The former emergency department was part of the hospital’s original footprint when it opened in 1976 and had gone through some small updates in its 35-year history. In recent years, the staff was treating more than twice the number of patients than what the space was designed to handle.

“We have been treating 33,000 patients a year, which is testament to the professionalism and talent of our staff, but now we will be practicing medicine – trauma care – in a space that’s designed to handle 45,000 visits a year,” said Dr. Bret Riegel, medical director for the emergency department. “In a crisis, every second counts, so this bigger, more efficient ED will help us do our jobs better and enhances patient care immeasurably.  We have a larger space to work in and it’s better organized, which means we can treat patients more effectively.”

The space increased from 8,400 to 13,700 square feet and from 15 to 26 exam rooms with dedicated areas for pediatrics, trauma and critical care as well as and minor injuries and illnesses.  Of the 33,000 patients the department sees each year, about 8,700 are under the age of 18.

Construction started one year ago, after the laboratory was moved into a renovated space on the second floor. The lab nearly doubled in size, giving personnel room to work more efficiently and allowing space for future technologies. With the lab removed from the first floor, its former footprint and corridors were worked into the floor plan for the new emergency department. The total cost of project including the lab renovation was about $6 million, which was paid for by donors and Mercy.

“Donations came in all sizes from co-workers to corporations, and the ED staff and I are very grateful to everyone who donated to the campaign,” said Dr. Riegel. “Each dollar that was given was a show of support from our communities that they believed in the project and that patients needed – and deserved – a bigger, better ED.”

The campaign was initiated by the Mercy Hospital Washington Foundation with assistance from Washington residents Bonnie and L.B. Eckelkamp who were the co-chairpersons of the campaign. They were joined by more than 60 community leaders who participated on the committee to raise funds.

The lab is accredited with the College of American Pathologists and performs 34,000 tests each month on behalf of patients at the hospital and at affiliated and nonaffiliated Mercy medical offices in Washington and surrounding communities. The emergency department is the only emergency department within a 30-mile radius and the only Level III Trauma Center between St. Louis and Rolla. It offers an experienced medical staff that is specially trained in trauma care and provides medical direction for eight ambulance districts with a service area that includes all or parts of five counties and more than 150,000 residents.