Memorial set to begin $15 million upgrade to emergency department

SANTA ROSA -- Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the only level II trauma center in the region,  said it will soon begin site preparation work on a $15 million renovation to its emergency department, a project that was delayed with the financial collapse of 2008.

Hospital officials said they anticipate getting final approval and permits from the Office of Statewide Health and Planning Department in early May. Upon getting the necessary permits, preliminary work will begin immediately at the hospital, and actual construction will be visible by around mid July. Completion of  the project is expected by early 2014.

The renovation will add nearly 50 percent more square footage to Sonoma County's busiest ER, which will have 26 private patient rooms, plus a new triage room, all of which will enable the trauma center to treat more critically ill or injured patients while more quickly triaging those with less acute conditions, according to the hospital, which is owned by St. Joseph Health System.

"It's well-needed work," said Dr. Ed West, an emergency department physician who has served as the main clinical consultant on the project. "We have been in the current facility footprint since 1985, we added five beds maybe five or six years ago, and our volume has increased every year – we have literally outgrown our space."

The health system announced last July that it would resume plans to renovate the emergency department at the 278-bed hospital. Before the economic downturn in 2008, the hospital was planning a much larger, two-story $68 million renovation that would have included a new intensive care unit and an expanded emergency room.

That initial project had also planned for the possible closure of Sutter Medical Center, which holds a county Health Care Access agreement that Memorial possibly would have taken over. Sutter ultimately stayed, and coupled with the collapse of financial markets, St. Joseph Health System dropped the new ICU and retooled its plans to the current $15 million project, which it describes as a "more narrowly focused upgrade designed to meet community needs through 2030."

The revamped emergency department will be adjacent to the hospital's Heart and Vascular Institute, which opened in November 2008. The hospital said it has secured a number of private pledges that will help fund the project.

Patient privacy, wait times and level of comfort are all expected to improve, according to the hospital.

"We're committed to providing patients more privacy, a state-of-the-art environment and decreased wait times," said Kristy Gaub, RN, director of emergency, trauma and urgent care services for St. Joseph Health System--Sonoma County.

Physicians themselves will be better able to treat patients in a larger, more modern setting, said Dr. West, who has been at the hospital since 1984.

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