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More trauma rooms, new ambulance bay among updates to Kishwaukee Hospital ER

IT workers add the final touches to the "hub and spoke" work station in the emergency room at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Monday, March 28, 2022, after the completion of the second phase of the three-phase renovation project in the ER at the facility.

DeKALB - The latest in a phased renovation of Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital’s emergency department opened Monday, offering a new entrance for ambulances and more patient trauma rooms, among other features.

It’s part two of an ongoing plan by Northwestern Medicine to modernize its emergency department at the hospital and improve resources for patient care. The $12 million renovation project has one phase left to go in the renovation. Construction began in April 2021. The 16-month project is expected to be complete by the fall.

The newly completed phase includes eight exam rooms, two trauma rooms, two isolation rooms and a nursing station. The area is designed in a hub and spoke model, with a clinical workstation in the center and treatment bays around the exterior that gives physicians and nurses improved access to all patients, hospital officials said.

“We didn’t build onto the building or anything like that. We just used the footprint, and the design team just recreated a better use of space,” said Melody Noon, registered nurse and manager of the emergency department. “We did gain a couple more rooms. We will gain another trauma room and will have a third one after the last phase.”

The first phase of the project, which opened in October 2021, featured a new waiting room, triage area, two isolation rooms and three holding bays for patients waiting for results. Additionally, five fast-track rooms opened that are designed to quickly treat patients with mild ailments and injuries, such as sore throat, urinary tract infections and sprained ankles.

Noon said the ER upgrades will help flow patients from the ambulance to their rooms.

“During the first phase, our ambulance bay was our registration area,” Noon said. “It will be nice to have everyone back in one area.”

Noon said construction was meant to begin in June 2020 but was delayed because of to the COVID-19 pandemic. A remodel of the ER was planned even before the pandemic to help address patient volume.

“The physical footprint has not changed that dramatically. The use of the space is very different,” said Dr. Jeremy Silver, Kishwaukee emergency room medical director. “It is not about the absolute area, but how you kind of map patients’ flow through the area.”

While reported COVID-19 cases have taken a downturn since the historic surge during the 2021 holidays amid the highly contagious omicron variant, there’s always a possibility of more virus variants. During the omicron surge, Kishwaukee Hospital experienced record patient volume, at one point urging community members to stay away from the ER unless absolutely necessary as patient volumes and staffing hit crisis levels.

With the possibility of another variant in mind, Silver said he encourages the community to seek alternate ways for receiving care outside of the emergency room if their health needs don’t dictate emergency care. He said options such as remote doctor consultations via Telehealth or visiting an immediate care clinic should be considered still before heading to the ER.

Under the latest department update, flow has been improved for patient care, including for those brought in by ambulance or walk-ins, hospital officials said.

The new ambulance entrance and a room for emergency medical service personnel have been reorganized for first responders with essential amenities.

Upgrades also include installation of new medical equipment, including new stretchers and a second pneumatic tube station, which are docks outfitted to the wall to store and help send biological material to the hospital’s laboratory for testing. An overflow area, equipped with medical gas, was installed to help accommodate additional patients if needed during a surge event.

The department also created an office for security services, officials said.

The final phase, expected to be completed by September, will include four exam rooms, one trauma room and the staff lounge. When completed, the number of patient treatment and holding areas in the emergency department will increase from 23 to 34.

“If you think of patients actually flowing through the process like water in a stream, you want as few interruptions as possible from start to finish,” Silver said. “The idea of flow and moving through the process and rapid access is optimal for everybody.”