GREENBRAE -- Marin General Hospital recently unveiled a newly built  emergency department that the 235-bed hospital said will significantly improve care and patient satisfaction.

The new emergency department, funded entirely by $2.25 million in donations, increases the size of the department by about 1,700 square feet, from its existing 8,400 square feet.  New features include a larger, more comfortable waiting room with a pediatric area.

Efficiency will also be improved, the hospital said, with a medically trained greeter positioned at the front door to assess patients, directing those with medical emergencies directly to a physician. Registration would then proceed at bedside. 

A medical exam room with five triage areas was converted from the previous waiting room. There, less acute patients will be treated by a nurse or another provider. The expansion of the triage area has meant that patients with less severe maladies aren’t forced to wait while more critical patients’ problems are addressed, the hospital said

“They can be seen in the triage areas and discharged,” said Michelle Tracy, director of Emergency Services at Marin General. “The quick turnaround means there’s no need to wait among the acute patients to see a doctor. It’s a great option for someone whose regular doctor can’t see them right away — we can manage orthopedic injuries such as sprains or fractures, draw lab tests and administer medications in a separate treatment room and, if they are just waiting for test results or need to be monitored, they can stay in a quiet sub-waiting room."

The upgraded ED is of particular importance given that Marin General is the only trauma center in the county, and there are also few after-hour clinics, according to the hospital. As a result, Marin General's ED has seen a significant spike in patients -- some 34,000 in the past year, of which about 6,000 required hospitalization. And it's a wide range of services provided and patients who benefit, not simply those in dire need, the hospital said.

“The notion that emergency rooms are only for victims of a shooting, a serious accident, or heart attack is antiquated,” said Dr. Jim Dietz, medical director of the ED. “We cover a broad spectrum of acute care needs. Someone with a torn muscle, smashed finger or troubling cough may not be able to wait to see their own doctor during business hours. This project has assured that patients are able to access the level of care needed without enduring a long wait.”  

The average visit is about 90 minutes, and patients are registered entirely by computer. Other improvements include easy access to diagnostic technology, the hospital said.

"It was critical for us to streamline our processes," Ms. Tracy said. "A significant number of patients were driving all the way to San Francisco to avoid the wait here. We can now keep waiting time to a minimum and provide a comfortable, calm setting."

A majority of the upgraded ED was paid for with a gift from the Schultz family, a well-known donor to Marin General which also helped fund the linear accelerator at Marin Cancer Institute, the birthing center and the breast diagnostic center, among other projects.

"We're thankful for the extraordinary generosity of the Schultz family," Marin General CEO Lee Domanico said. "Their leadership and financial support has been a catalyst for the community support we now receive, and is allowing us to provide Marin residents with the high quality care they deserve."