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Beaufort hospital expansion groundbreaking for emergency care, officials said

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Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WASHINGTON, N.C. — While the nation stands mired in a debate about the future of health care, Vidant Beaufort Hospital officials broke ground Tuesday on a new 9,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art emergency department expansion project.

The $17 million expansion, designed to modernize and enhance services to patients in Beaufort, Hyde and nearby counties, is scheduled for completion in the late summer of 2018, a hospital spokeswoman said. It will include a new patient entrance facing Highland Drive and feature a new resuscitation suite, 16 patient rooms, including one designed specifically for trauma care, another for decontamination and others for behavioral health and a variety of other specialty services.

When work is completed on the first phase of the project, including the new addition, the department will be relocated into it and renovations will begin on the existing 3,500-square-foot portion, including four additional beds there, expected to take about eight more months to complete, officials said.

The East Group architectural firm designed the expansion and T.A. Loving Construction is contracted to build the facility.

“This has been a long time coming,” Harvey Case, Vidant Beaufort Hospital president, said. “When it’s done, we’re going to have something our staff, patients and community will be very proud of.”

Case described the work efficiencies that will be created by the expansion, the first upgrade to the department in nearly 30 years.

“In today’s environment, patient and work flow is the biggest challenge we’ve got and stays sometimes are longer than we’d like to see,” he said. “These measures are designed to help with that. Nurses will have easy access to all patient rooms and there will be computers in all the rooms for real time access.”

Lindsey Crisp, chairman of the Vidant Beaufort Hospital Directors Council, said Vidant Health Systems committed to a $20 million investment in technologies, facilities and equipment when it took over the hospital in 2011.

“When this ED project is completed, Vidant Health will have invested more than $40 million during the first seven years of the relationship and expanded the emergency department by more than 33 percent,” Crisp said. “Vidant has met its commitment to our community in a big way.” 

Doctors from the Department of Emergency Medicine at East Carolina University over the past four years have treated more than 100,000 people at Vidant Beaufort, the department chairman, Dr. Ted Delbridge, said.

Emergency departments are among the greatest health success stories of the 20th century, he said.

“Having emergency departments at the ready with trained specialists in emergency medicine is a pretty new development,” Delbridge said. “This project is a big deal for our region and the more than 25,000 people we serve each year. We’re proud of our partnership with Vidant Health, what we’ve accomplished together and what we hope to accomplish in this new facility.”

The project is about improved patient access to care, said Roger Robertson, president of Vidant Community Hospitals, which includes Beaufort.

“It’s been designed around the needs of the community, which have changed over time,” Robertson said. “This helps us catch up and prepare for their future needs.”

Robertson said the escalating debate around the American health care model weighs heavily on every decision that Vidant and its affiliates make for the future of care in eastern North Carolina.

“We watch carefully and it weighs heavily on every decision we make,” he said. “There’s not enough certainty about what’s going to happen with health care financing to make very definitive moves. We do know that the federal government is not going to want to pay us more money; they’re going to want to shrink the dollars. We have to respond by being more cost effective and very efficient in the services we provide.”

The Beaufort Hospital emergency department also has been serving the people of Belhaven 26 miles away after Vidant shed affiliate Pungo District Hospital in 2014 due to rising operational costs and replaced it with a consolidated 24/7 multispecialty care center that does not include an emergency department.

“We’re seeing more patients now in the (Belhaven) clinic than we did when the physician practices were separated there,” Case said. “It’s been a huge success. If they need emergency care, this project will help provide it for that community as well as Aurora and other surrounding communities. We see this as a partnership with all the communities we serve.”

Case said that highly trained EMS paramedic personnel provide on-site assessments and decisions about next-step care in those more remote communities.

“We think it’s worked really well,” he said.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.