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Work begins on BMH Emergency Department expansion project

BRATTLEBORO—For the next year or so, it’s going to be a little harder to get around Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, but President and CEO Steve Gordon wants to assure everyone that the inconvenience is going to be well worth it.

Work began on Monday on BMH’s $7.5 million renovation and expansion of the hospital’s Emergency Department. As part of the first phase of the project, the current main entrance to the hospital will be closed and the canopy will be taken down.

Access to the hospital for all patients and visitors will be through the Richards Building. BMH volunteers and staff will be stationed at the Richards Building entrance to serve as guides.

“We’ll have plenty of staff on hand to make sure people will get to where they need to go,” said Gordon after Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Gordon said this first phase will continue through the summer of 2013. Completion of the entire project is scheduled for the spring of 2014.

The Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Emergency Department was last renovated in 1982. At that time, it was constructed to serve approximately 6,000 patients annually. Over the past 30 years, the number of patients served by the Emergency Department has more than doubled to about 13,000 visits last year.

Gordon said the state recognized the need for the expansion, and gave quick approval to all the permits needed to begin work. As a result, the project was able to start on schedule.

The project will involve some complicated choreography. The first step is to relocate the hospital’s MRI equipment from its temporary trailer to a permanent location in the Richards Building.

After that phase is complete, the project calls for extending the hospital’s current front entrance outward to create a walk-in entrance for the Emergency Department, one that is separate from the ambulance entrance.

The new Emergency Department will have three ambulance bays, six private rooms, a separate entrance for walk-in cases, and a private admissions area. It will expand into the space where the gift shop and coffee shop are now located. A new café-style coffee shop will open on the opposite side of the present lobby.

The goal, said Gordon, is to reduce waiting time, improve patient privacy, and give the emergency department more space to do its work. This is important, because nearly three-quarters of patients admitted to BMH start their medical journeys in the ED.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #178 (Wednesday, November 14, 2012).

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