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Emergency department, cancer center doubling in size

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Columbus Regional Hospital has planned a $30 million construction and expansion project to accommodate growing patient volumes in its emergency department and cancer center.

A new emergency department, ambulance garage and receiving dock will be built. Also, the hospital’s cancer center will be expanded.

Emergency department patient volume far exceeds what the building was designed to handle, and the cancer center has experienced a steady growth in patients using its services, hospital officials said.


“We’ve gotten everything out of our space we could, but it’s not meeting the needs of the community,” Columbus Regional Health President and CEO Jim Bickel said.

The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2015, and addresses some of the physical needs that were part of a larger expansion project.

Columbus Regional Hospital had planned to undergo a $108 million expansion that would have included at least 60 private patient rooms in a five-story pavilion, plus a new emergency department.

That plan was put on hold, however, when the June 2008 flood damaged the basement and first floor of the hospital and forced the emergency department to shut down until August 2008. Inpatient services were restored to the hospital in October 2008.

A portion of money set aside for the original expansion project was used to pay employee salaries until the hospital reopened. Money also was invested in upgrading information technology and other information systems, Bickel said.

Bigger emergency department

The current emergency department was built in 1992 to handle 25,000 patients annually, Bickel said, but it’s been serving about 40,000 since 2009. Patient visits to the emergency department have increased from 35,870 annual visits in 2006, data shows.

With a growing population in the Columbus area and more patients with insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, emergency medicine physician Dr. Chris Schneider said he expects the number of visits to keep growing.

The emergency department has had small renovations and the staff has modified its processes to handle the uptick in patients, but the hospital is out of options and needs a bigger space, Bickel said.

Emergency department space will double from 10,600 square feet to 24,000 square feet.

“The new emergency department will handle 45,000 to 47,000 (patients) nicely,” Bickel said.

A new, two-story department will be located on the southeast side of the hospital campus, across from Our Hospice of South Central Indiana. Currently, it’s next to the dining pavilion on the southwest side of the campus, with entrance off 17th Street.

The emergency room will be located on the first floor, and a 10-bed clinical decision unit will be on the second floor.

A clinical decision unit is for patients who need to be clinically observed by physicians while waiting on test results, Bickel said.

The new emergency department will have infrastructure in place to allow additional floors to be constructed if another expansion is needed, Bickel said.

“We wanted the emergency department to be designed with flexibility in mind, with the changes in health care and other changes going on,” Bickel said.

During construction, the current emergency department will function as normal until the new location is ready.

Construction of a larger emergency department won’t warrant additional staffing unless patient volume increases, said Pamela Missi, vice president and chief nursing officer.

Relocation of the emergency department will allow for a corridor that runs from the north end of the hospital to the southwest corner and continues through the old emergency department space to the southeast corner, Bickel said. The location of the emergency department now blocks such a route.

Additional expansion

Over the past three years, the number of new patients receiving care at the cancer center has increased 24 percent. And, projections show an increased number of cancer cases in the region in the coming years, said Denise Glesing, director of planning and marketing.

The cancer center expansion will consist of an additional 5,000 square feet of space to the 15,500-square-foot facility for patients and their families while cancer treatment is underway.

The addition will occupy what is currently courtyard space between Pavilion A, where the cancer center is located, and Pavilion B, both located on the west side of the campus.

A new ambulance garage will be next to the emergency department, and the helipad will be relocated to the east side.

Parking will be added to the south and east of the hospital.

A new loading dock will replace a temporary one that has been used since the hospital reopened after the flood.

Patient input included

During planning of the project, comments and concerns of patients and their families were collected through the hospital’s Voice of the Customer program and other surveys. The hospital reviewed more than 500 comments submitted by about 100 patients, and some of those wishes will be incorporated into the project, Missi said.

The hospital also created a patient-family advisory council to help steer the development process.

“Overall, we have heard that people want an immediate, seamless and patient-centered environment. Privacy is important, and they are looking for assistance in connecting them with health needs beyond their emergency department visit,” Glesing said.

The hospital’s second, third, fourth and sixth floors have predominantly semiprivate or shared rooms, but census counts allow patients to have rooms to themselves about 85 to 90 percent of the time, Glesing said. Having 10 beds in the clinical decision unit will provide more private rooms for admitted patients.

Bickel said hospital officials would still like to get to the point where all patient rooms are private, but that will have to be considered in a future expansion.


The hospital’s board of trustees approved funding for the new expansion project in December.

“The $30 million was the amount we could conservatively and safely afford with the changes in health care now,” Bickel said.

No money will be borrowed; all the funding will come from the hospital’s cash reserves,” Bickel said.

Indianapolis-based Pepper Construction Group will oversee the construction and expansion project. BSA LifeStructures, also of Indianapolis, will be the project architect.

Some construction of the loading dock will begin by early June, and the site plan for the entire project will go before the city plan commission in June, said Steve Thomas, director of facilities construction.

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