Raymond Ramos said, “ER visits have steadily increased over the past decade.”
This is partially because after-hours people have no other option than to go to the emergency room.
Many physicians’ offices close at 5 p.m. and on weekends.
“If your physician’s office is closed — where do you get care? Typically, the emergency room,” he said.
He added that the influx of oil field workers into the county is also having an effect on the hospital. Many, he said, don’t have a primary care provider in the area, so they use the hospital’s emergency room.
Changes to the ER won’t just be for the minor ailments but will also improve care for those with more serious emergencies.
“It has been in discussion now for the past three to five years,” he said. “I think it is long overdue.”
When the emergency room was first built, it was meant to handle about 50 or so patients a day. But times have changed. The town has grown. That number is up to 60 and 70 patients, which is putting a strain on the resources.
“We had about 1,500 more visits this year compared to this past year,” he said. “Access is a priority to us, and we want to make sure we are providing that access, whether it is for the emergency room or the hospital.”
Many of these can be handled fairly quickly, which is why one of the newest improvements in the redesign of the area will be a dedicated “fast track” room and nurse practitioner.
However, that is really just the tip of the iceberg for the improvements.
A few areas are being modified to allow nurses working to keep an eye on patients both inside the emergency and in the waiting room.
In a short tour of the area, Ramos pointed out that nurses cannot see into the waiting room easily.
He points out that this is important because they need to be able to tell if someone’s condition worsens as they wait to see a doctor.
Sliding glass doors are also replacing some of the wooden doors inside the area so that nurses can keep an eye on critical patients.
Half walls are replacing solid walls, again to provide visibility to rooms now hidden from view of the nurses and doctors.
Two of the rooms will also feature cartoon characters throughout for the younger patients. This is thanks to recent donations from Ladies Night Out.
Construction, he said, should be finished soon now that he has approval of the commissioners court, which distributes a portion of the funds.
“We are pretty much moving forward to put out the ER project to bid,” he told the court during a meeting last month.
He expects the project to come in under a million dollars, which, he said, took work on the part of the staff.
When he first looked at the plans, he expected it to cost about $2.5 million.
“I was very happy to get those costs down,” he said.
Since this is an emergency room, there is an issue that will make this project more difficult.
“We are open 24/7,” he said. They cannot close while the renovations take place.
“It will take a longer period of time, because we have to be open,” he said.
Renovation is divided into phases so that patients will still be seen by nurses and doctors and care won’t be adversely affected.
All in all, it will take about eight months to complete the work.
“I know the population is growing, and we want to meet those demands,” Ramos said.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.