What will the new Miseracordia ER opening Tuesday mean for Edmonton patients?

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The new Misericordia Community Hospital emergency department, more than five years in the making, will open its doors to patients Tuesday at 7:30 a.m.

The $85-million space is set to boost capacity, from the 26 care spaces it had when it was built in 1969 to 64 in the new ER.

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Patrick Dumelie, Covenant Health CEO, said the new department will help alleviate the extreme pressure being faced by health facilities in the Edmonton zone.

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“It feels like Christmas Eve,” he told reporters Monday.

“I think it’s – if not the best – one of the best emergency departments in North America,” he said.

How will it be different for patients going to the Mis?

Physically, the new department’s big bright windows and space for reclining chairs present a stark contrast to the cramped spaces that greeted patients at the old emergency department.

At 5,000 square metres, it’s almost triple the size of the old ER’s 1,700 square metres.

“Just the sheer volume and size of the space will allow us to not only give better and more dignified care, but will also help us with the throughput,” he said. The old department averaged between 50,000 to 55,000 visits per year – twice as many as it was originally built to handle. The new ER will have the capacity for 66,000 per year, and its additions include two more ambulance bays and two x-ray rooms.

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Will it speed up the average wait time?

The estimated average wait time to see a physician at the Misericordia ER Monday morning was just over four hours. By early afternoon that estimate was over seven hours.

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Dumelie, when asked whether the new space will see faster average wait times, said “it’s not a silver bullet,” given the pressures being faced by the health care system.

Still, he said the space will help to address pressure by allowing patients to move through the department more effectively.

“Oftentimes we have an extreme issue with people who are waiting to be admitted into the hospital occupying stretcher space in the existing ER which gives us huge difficulty in treating the patients who are waiting to come into the emergency,” he said.

Will it have more staff?

Dumelie said depending on patient volume, the bigger space does offer the opportunity to increase staffing. Some of that space won’t be utilized right away but will open up with demand and added resources.

Program manager Jessica Fryk said some 27 more staff have already been added, including more porters, cleaning staff, and service attendants, while physician coverage has been expanded.

How much did it cost?

At $85 million, the project came in on budget. That includes design and construction, the back-up generator and the equipment and furniture. The often-cited cost of $65 million included the bricks and mortar portion of the project.

Lisa Munro, President and CEO of the Covenant Foundation, said thanks to donors and community partners, $2.3 million from the foundation went to specialized equipment, training and amenities, including a children’s play space and landscaped courtyards.

What happens to the old ER?

Dumelie said the old ER will be set aside for surge capacity, and Covenant aims to recruit more staff for when there is extra demand.

lijohnson@postmedia.com

X: @reportrix

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