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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Rutland Regional Medical Center Begins $6 Million ER Upgrade

Nina Keck
Rutland Regional Medical Center will undergo a $6 million rennovation and expansion to provide more space for care as demand for ER services grows.

Rutland Regional Medical Center is undertaking a $6 million expansion of its emergency room to meet growing demand and the changing needs of patients.

Nationwide, emergency room visits are climbing, despite the intention of the Affordable Care Act to slow ER traffic as more people gained access to doctors and other health-care providers.

Dr. Todd Gregory is medical director of Rutland Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department, which sees about 100 patients a day.

“This is our nursing station right now,” says Gregory, standing in a crowded hallway and leaning over a large circular desk that holds multiple computers and equipment. “So, physicians and nurses as well as our technical staff work out of this.”

Gregory points across the noisy room. “With the new design, we’re going to take out that wall. So we’ll basically have this nurses’ station replicated in a central spot where our clinic leaders, physicians and nurses will work to manage the entire department.”

The idea, says Gregory, is better use of resources and more rapid and efficient patient care.

That’s important, he says, because the number of patients they see has been increasing 2 percent a year.

Gregory points to several patients who are being treated in the hallway — something he admits happens all too frequently. “If you’re a patient it’s pretty tough — especially if you have pain or anxiety or both, as most of our patients do," he says. "That’s not what you want to be exposed to.”

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Dr. Todd Gregory, right medical director of the emergency department at Rutland Regional Medical Center, talks with a colleague at the current nurses station. The ER begins an 18-month, $6 million renovation project this week that will reconfigure the nursing station, add more treatment space and improve security to better handle growing demand.

The hospital's president, Tom Huebner, points to two main issues driving up demand for ER service. First is the shortage of primary care and other providers in Rutland. “Second,” says Huebner, “we’ve seen a lot of increased demand with patients with behavior health needs, psychiatric patients, patients with substance abuse problems. That has certainly been an increase in volume as well.”

And Todd Gregory says many of those patients are much sicker when they do seek help. “And so we are now boarding patients for days at a time, where we just didn’t have that to this extent even four years ago," he says.

The hospital completed a much larger $21 million renovation of its emergency department and power plant 13 years ago. But Gregory says their needs have changed even in that short of a time.  

Tom Huebner says the hospital will pay for the $6 million project with funds it already has. He says the upgrade will increase the number of treatment rooms, provide space for long-term stays, enhance security and improve overall traffic flow. If all goes as planned, he says the project will take 18 months to complete.

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