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Health Team

Duke Emergency Room Growing to Ease Overcrowding

Posted March 26, 2007 5:55 p.m. EDT

— If you've ever had to wait a long time in an emergency room, you're not alone. The reason is all the other people you see around you.

Duke University Hospital's Emergency Department was designed in the late 1980s to handle 109 patients a day, but the nurses and doctors there see about 178.

The current facility began dealing with overcrowding just six years after it was completed.

"So, there's a lot of care taking place in the hallway. There's a lack of privacy,” said Jeffrey Doucette, R.N., associate operating officer with Duke Emergency Services. It is, he said, “loud, not designed very well,"

To cope with the problems, Duke is expanding and upgrading, expanding the ED from 54 to 82 beds.

A third of the new facility will open for new patients on April 2. The total project is targeted for completion in December, Doucette said. The expansion will help Duke serve 90,000 patients a year.

It's a state-of-the-art facility with the latest in diagnostic equipment, including a 64-slice CT scanner. There's electronic medical charting in each room, and eight trauma/resuscitation rooms.

Young patients have their own waiting area, treatment rooms and dedicated pediatric staff.

Murals, signs—even tiles in the bathrooms and floor—repeat a Murphy-to-Manteo theme with scenes of the mountains, beaches and ocean critters.

"I think what people will find it is a much more comfortable environment. We certainly have looked to a more family-centered approach to our care," Doucette said.

Rooms are more private and work areas are designed to cut down on noise, but many visitors may be more impressed when they arrive and see free valet parking.

The new Duke Emergency Department is also set up to be an in-house decontamination facility in the case of public exposure to hazardous chemicals or radiation.