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Another step in ER expansion

Posted: November 9, 2008 7:40 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2008 4:59 a.m.
In just a few weeks, patients waiting in the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Emergency Department lobby will never experience the same drab and constricted feel again.

A new and more spacious ER lobby will be opening.

"The original emergency room was built to serve a much smaller population than exists in Santa Clarita today," said John Schleif, the hospital's chief operating officer.

"We made significant improvements during the expansion several years ago, and now we're working in phases to renovate the older sections to increase efficiency as well as patient comfort," Schleif said during a recent tour of the hospital.

Construction of the new lobby began in July and includes 2,600 more square feet of space complete with registration stations, two triage rooms, a children's play area and large opaque windows, according to hospital officials.

"It's a really big deal," said ER nurse Cathy Spaid, 49, of Valencia. "It's a culmination of many years working with staff and looking for easier ways for us to take care of patients."

One of Spaid's favorite aspects of the new area is bullet-proof glass windows that separate the triage rooms from the lobby. As the community is changing, she feels the windows are a necessary safety enhancement.

Having more room shortens the waiting time for patients, said ER nurse Duke Olbes, 37.

"It expedites the process" and allows staff to efficiently "separate the fast-track patients from the main ER," he said.

The drastic contrast in look and space, compared to the old emergency room surprised some people who previewed the lobby.

"This is 100 percent better," said Eva Murray, 62, who visited the ER many times in the past. "It's cheerful."

Although the current waiting room features ocean blue walls with palm tree decor, it dulls in comparison to the modern and fresh look of the new room.

The emergency department's expansion began in December 2006 and resulted in an increase from 7,730 square feet to 16,636 square feet.

Thanks to community donors who provided the capital fundraising, the $14.4-million expansion will be completed in fall 2009 with 36 new beds, 25 of which will be cardiac-monitored beds and 11 of which will be low-acuity, fast-track beds.

Hospital officials expect to receive 50,000 annual emergency department visits by 2010 and believe they will be prepared due to the new expansion, Schleif said.

For Vivian Rebel, director of emergency services, the completion of the lobby area is "the middle of a dream. We're getting close to the halfway point," she said. "It's a huge improvement for the community we serve."

Rebel said the new lobby will open to the public a few weeks after final state inspection.

"We're so grateful to have seen it come this far," Rebel said. "We're very excited and we can't wait for the next phases."


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