From left, April Culver, vice president of planning and external affairs; Kyle McDermott, a senior director and member of the Foundation board; and Alison Drain, executive director of the Foundation, present a ceremonial check to Ruth Marler, the hospitalÕs COO, CNO; and Chuck Elliott, CEO and president of Johnston Health.
After raising more than $300,000, the Johnston Health Foundation has announced that it’s ready to tackle the first phase of a $1.5 million capital project to renovate and expand the emergency department at Johnston Medical Center-Smithfield.
“We’re proud to announce that we’ve reached a goal in our Emergency Services Campaign and will begin construction,” said Lucy Coats, chair of the Johnston Health Foundation Board.
The first phase, which is expected to cost $125,000, will be to renovate the hospital’s former lab into additional space for behavioral health patients.
Since the state closed Dorothea Dix Hospital Johnston Health has seen a rise in the number of patients seeking behavioral health care. The Smithfield hospital is among a handful in the region that still offer behavioral health services, and its 20-bed unit is often full.
“Patients needing behavioral health care must wait in the emergency department if we don’t have a bed available in our unit or at another facility,” says Kyle McDermott, who oversees construction for Johnston Health and also serves on the Foundation Board. “These waits can vary from a few hours to a few days.”
Since opening in 1998, the emergency department has been operating beyond its capacity. It was designed for 34,000 patients visits a year, but now has more than 47,000.
Beyond the plan for construction, hospital administrators and staff have been working to reduce paperwork and shorten wait times in the emergency department, all to enhance the patient experience.
Ruth Marler, chief operating officer for Johnston Medical Center-Smithfield, says two-thirds of the hospital’s inpatients are admitted through the emergency department. “This is our front door, and we want to be able to put our best foot forward,” she says. “That’s another reason why the campaign is so important.”
McDermott says construction will begin as soon as the state approves design plans, which may be as early as February.
Alison Drain, executive director of the Foundation, says the capital campaign will shift gears as it moves forward with raising the money needed to complete the remaining three phases of the project.