ER expansion unveiled

Rise in emergency patients spurs Avera to plan for construction project

Photo by Deb Gau Avera Marshall President and CEO Mary Maertens said the emergency care expansion will add patient rooms and trauma care rooms.

MARSHALL — There’s been a lot of growth at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center over the past 20 years, and it’s affected the hospital’s emergency room, too. Avera Marshall has gone from treating fewer than 4,900 emergency patients a year in the 1990s, to treating 7,800 patients in 2016.

“That’s about a 60 percent increase,” said Dr. Timothy Hindbjorgen, medical director of Avera Marshall’s emergency department.

But Avera Marshall’s emergency care facilities haven’t been renovated since 1997, Hindbjorgen said. “We believe the time is right” to make some changes, he said.

Avera Marshall announced Tuesday that it will be expanding its emergency care facility. Construction on the project, which will double the size of the emergency department, is planned to begin in January.

“We’re tremendously excited about these plans,” said Avera Marshall President and CEO Mary Maertens.

Maertens said plans for expanding the emergency department have been in the works for more than three years.

“It’s part of our master campus plan,” Maertens said. Not only has the hospital seen increased numbers of emergency patients over the years, she said, but Avera Marshall has also grown to have a larger service area. It’s the only hospital with a Level III trauma designation for 60 miles, Hindbjorgen said.

The cost of the emergency care expansion is $6 million. Avera Marshall will also be conducting a $600,000 fundraising campaign to help pay for the project, Maertens said.

Maertens and other Avera Marshall officials shared plans and concept art of the expansion at a Tuesday morning press conference. The expanded facility will have 10,540 square feet of space — about twice the size of the current emergency department. The ED will have a new layout, with private patient care rooms clustered around a central staff area, said Avera Marshall facilities director Keven Schroeder.

“I think the efficiency is going to be able to increase a lot,” Hindbjorgen said. Not only will that mean less waiting time for patients, he said, but it will be easier to treat multiple people at once. “When we have, say, a multi-vehicle accident, we will have more dedicated space.”

The expanded emergency department will double the number of emergency care rooms at Avera Marshall. There will be a total of 10 patient care rooms, and two trauma care rooms. The expansion project will also add more security measures to the emergency department and build a new drive-through ambulance garage.

“Frequently, we have more than one ambulance arrive” at the hospital, Maertens said. The drive-through garage will make it faster and easier to get those patients into emergency care, she said. The new design will also be safer, because ambulances won’t have to back out of the garage.

Construction won’t interrupt emergency care services at the hospital, Schroeder said.

“There’s going to be three phases of construction,” he said. The first phase will be to renovate an overflow area at the hospital into a temporary emergency department. That renovation will start in January. Work on the expansion will start once the emergency department has moved into its temporary location.

The expansion project is planned to be finished by spring 2019, Schroeder said.