The halls were quiet. Rooms, beds and chairs were empty and computers showed only their screen savers Tuesday morning.
All that will change once the new emergency care center at Manatee Memorial Hospital opens its doors to patients Thursday.
For Dr. Teresa Rawe, director of the emergency department, Tuesday’s ribbon cutting for the new center was “surreal.”
“It’s hard to imagine it’s actually here,” Rawe said.
On average, the emergency department sees about 205 to 300 patients a day, depending on the time of year, said Tasha French, clinical leader of the emergency care center.
Kevin DiLallo, Manatee Healthcare System CEO, previously said the hospital’s emergency room has seen a record-setting number of patients over the last several years and they expect to continue to see about 16 percent growth in the number of patients over the next few years.
There are 18 more beds in the new emergency care center, with 48 total rooms divided into two sections to care for the growing number of patients.
After the ribbon cutting, brief tours of the new $33 million emergency care center were given to the dozens of people who attended the ceremony — mostly hospital staff, local officials and those directly involved in the planning, design and building of the space.
As they walked through the new rooms in the nearly 33,000-square-foot building, excited chatter broke out about how useful various features would be to staff and patients.
There are 24 universal exam rooms, including three behavioral health rooms, two resuscitation rooms, two negative pressure/contact isolation rooms and one room each for bariatric and gynecology services.
The behavioral health rooms include a door that can drop down and cover medical equipment. Staff said the feature keeps patients safe. Bathrooms near the behavioral health rooms are also specially equipped to comply with safety guidelines.
The new emergency care center also boasts “geriatric-friendly” features, such as exam tables and beds that lower easily. Special indigo UV lighting was installed to help prevent infections and patients rooms are equipped with smart TVs.
A “fully implemented” Alternatives to Opioids Program (ALTO), a peer-to-peer recovery program supported by volunteers, will also be available in the new center.
Patient rooms are separated into color-coded pods, noted by the color on each room’s sign. The pods are based on the patient’s need for care. Patients are evaluated on a scale, with Level 1 being the most sick to Level 5 patients who are relatively healthy but might have a cold or a laceration.
Those in Levels 4 or 5 likely will be sent to “fast track” rooms in the green pod.
Yellow pod rooms will be used for patients who are Level 3, which could need lab work, medication or a scan.
Patients treated in these pods likely will not need to be admitted to the hospital but might require care or testing.
Sixteen beds will be “super track,” meaning patients will need X-rays or scans.
Within these pods, there is also an internal waiting room and private consultation rooms.
Separated by a patient “threshold” hallway — designed so more critical patients do not mingle with patients with less serious needs — are red and blue pods reserved for patients who need more intensive treatment. The ambulance entrance will be into these pods.
Just outside those doors, there is a covered drive with three staging and support areas for EMS access.
Walk-in patients will enter a covered area off Second Street East, just past the hospital’s main entrance sign, into a waiting room. These will be closer to the green and yellow pods.
In the old emergency department, French said each room could be used for “everything,” and the purpose of the room was changed for the day or patient. Now, rooms are designed a specific way, so patients can go into the sections that are set up and ready for their needs.
In addition, there will be one nurse and one other caregiving staff member to every four rooms.
“It’s going to be amazing,” French said.
With 96 security cameras, there will be 24-hour-a-day surveillance in the department.
The new design is intended to get patients to a provider as fast as possible, emergency care center director Jody Rain said.
But a favorite detail of staff is the 22 new bathrooms. In the old department, there were just three.
“I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek a few weeks ago, and what was remarkable to me was the minute attention to detail in planning this facility with solely the care and safety of patients and staff in mind,” Manatee Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Jacki Dezelski said.
The new emergency care center is the hospital’s biggest construction project in 12 years, DiLallo previously said.
The groundbreaking for the new emergency care center was held in July 2017 on two acres of hospital property along Second Avenue East. The area was formerly a doctors’ parking area.
The previous emergency room was built in the 1980s and renovated in 2001. The hospital has been open since 1953.