CLINTON, Md. – MedStar Health is celebrating the opening of its newly-renovated emergency department (ED) at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, the largest construction project in the hospital’s history. The $43 million renovation expands the facility by 18,000 square feet, adding almost 50 percent more treatment space and several new services uniquely designed to meet the needs of surrounding communities like Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C.
“Emergency departments are important to the community because whether it’s a surgical emergency, a cardiac episode, or diabetic episode, when patients come to the ED, they’re often sicker than they’ve ever been,” said Chile Ahaghotu, MD, vice president of Medical Affairs at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center. “This new state-of-the-art emergency department gives us the ability to get patients in quickly, identify their issues, and provide our community with the best quality care that we can. In designing this new space we took into account the history of the kinds of medical conditions we see here at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, behavioral health and cancer. We made sure that we had the technologies and the physical features to support that type of care.”
“Prince George’s County continues to grow rapidly, and its residents need seamless access to the most advanced care,” said MedStar Health President and CEO Kenneth A. Samet at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held for the grand opening of the new department. “MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center’s ED is a critically important access point. This facility is part of our wide-ranging efforts to improve care delivery across the region, with more specialty care located here, so patients don’t have to travel long distances to see their doctors, and population health strategies designed to keep people healthier and out of the hospital in the first place.”
Crews broke ground on the project in September 2019 and continued to work tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, starting April 8, emergency department patients have access to:
- Additional treatment rooms, which have been expanded from 28 to 40.
- A designated behavioral health area to help manage patients suffering from a behavioral health crisis or substance abuse issues in a quiet and therapeutic environment.
- Modernized ambulance access and patient waiting areas that emphasize patient privacy, including quick telehealth evaluations for all patients.
- Upgraded diagnostic imaging including a 128-slice Siemens CT scanner and a new MRI available in the ED for the first time.
- A new front entrance and two-story lobby space, including gift shop and 24-hour café.
This summer, the emergency department will complete the second phase of renovations, opening a new special pathogen treatment center used to diagnose and treat patients exposed to dangerous viruses or other microorganisms. The plan for the new pathogen center started long before the pandemic as MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center serves as one of Maryland’s five designated Special Pathogen Assessment Hospitals.
In other ways, COVID-19 did impact construction. Hospital leaders quickly adjusted project plans last year to make sure even more of the emergency department would be ready for the pandemic.
“We have 27 negative pressure rooms to keep the germs inside and keep them from getting outside,” said Kristen Quade, RN, nurse director of the Emergency Department. “MedStar Health also created what we’re calling pandemic response rooms, which we will be using in the new space as well. Those were really developed with the mindset to keep both isolation patients and the rest of the community safe.”
“Despite all of the challenges that we’ve had to deal with over the last several months, we were still able to take care of each other as a team and take care of our patients,” Dr. Ahaghotu said. “That’s really the heart of high reliability. You do it in a way that’s safe, you do it in a way that’s high quality, and you do it in a way that means a lot to the folks who are getting the care.”
One of the most special features of the upgraded facility is that more than $142 thousand of the cost was donated by MedStar Health associates in addition to donations from board members and others from the community. Through its Power to Heal campaign, MedStar Health empowers associates to financially support projects through philanthropic gifts as affordable as five to ten dollars. Often, associates choose to contribute to projects that will improve their own communities or workplaces. That was the case for both Operating Room Nurse Christine Young, RN, and Kevin Scales, who started as a volunteer in the Emergency Department at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center several years ago and worked his way up to become a radiology transporter.
“We are very appreciative that this new emergency department will assist our community because it’s gratifying to help those who need help such as the elderly, the homeless, and children,” Scales said. “To me, they are the most vulnerable in our society. As long as we give them proper care, I believe they will go on and live prosperous lives. We are at liberty to help people, so for us to be able to add to our community is a great thing.”
“I have been at the hospital for about 15 years and I am very involved in the community doing different things, like helping with women’s shelters, so donating to the Emergency Department project was a very natural thing for me to do,” said Young, who helped lead the Power to Heal campaign in her department. “I come from a background where I didn’t have a whole lot and to be in the position to help other people is very important to me.”
“I'm so grateful for how our associates, other donors and our entire community came together to support the hospital during this renovation and also during the pandemic. I am filled with gratitude and all I can say is a big ‘thank you,’” said Dr. Ahaghotu.