Beaufort Memorial Hospital begins expanding emergency room

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Faced with increasing demand for emergency medical services, Beaufort Memorial Hospital has begun a $14.5-million renovation project that will more than double the size of its Emergency Department.
The Level 3 ER will be expanded from 9,500 square feet to 20,500 square feet with 26 private treatment rooms—two of them trauma rooms—two consult rooms, a decontamination room and five waiting rooms to review test results. In the current space, the facility accommodates 18 beds and two triage rooms.
Beaufort Memorial’s ER visits now total 40,000 annually—twice as many as it was built to handle. Over the next 10 years, that number is expected to grow by as much as 10,000 visits a year.
The renovation also will include major improvements to the emergency power systems. Nearly 20 years old, the dated equipment does not have the capacity to operate the facility should the power go out in a disaster.
“We need to keep our plant and infrastructure in place to support emerging technology,” said BMH President and CEO Rick Toomey. “We have outgrown our current facility needs, and we need to upgrade systems to make sure our patients receive the safest and best care possible.”
The project, being undertaken by BE&K Building Group of Charlotte, is expected to take 14 months. Despite the extensive renovation work, the ER will remain fully functional throughout the construction.
“It will be inconvenient for awhile around here,” said Marion Moody, Director of Plant Services, “but our goal will be to cause as little disruption to patient services as possible.”
Noise and dust barriers and HEPA filters will be used as needed to minimize the impact of demolition on patients and visitors. Fencing will be erected and directional signs posted as sections of the department are shifted during construction. Departments adjacent to the ER also may be relocated.
The first phase of the project — expected to take eight months to complete — will involve mostly new construction around three sides of the Emergency Department. The additional square footage will provide more clinic space, better work flow in the ER, improved ambulance access and a covered porch that will serve as an exterior waiting area.
A new enlarged patient waiting room will be created in the space that had been occupied by hospital administration. Those offices recently moved to the third floor of Beaufort Medical Plaza.
Until the work is completed, the existing ER entrance will be reserved exclusively for ambulance traffic. Patients and visitors will need to use the main or south hospital entrances.  The renovation will include a new drive-through drop-off for ambulances, as well as a fully covered public entrance.
In addition, major upgrades will be made to the hospital’s infrastructure, including increasing the capacity of the cooling system, which is vital to the operation of the advanced technology currently being used in the ER. Three new Caterpillar 800KW generator sets will be installed in a new power house, along with the latest in electrical switchgear technology.
“We will be 100 percent self sufficient in the event of a power loss,” Moody said. “The current system was installed in 1992, and it can run vital systems on emergency power, but that doesn’t include air conditioning.”
A $1.5-million donation made by Beaufort philanthropist Dr. Bruce Pratt in honor of his parents provided the start-up money to launch the ambitious project.
BMH Foundation is working to secure additional funding for the renovation and hospital employees are in the process of raising another $1 million.
“I think our doctors, patients and staff will be thrilled with the changes we will be making in the new facility,” said ER Director Kevin Kremer. “It will take us some time and inconvenience to get there, but we are very excited about it.”