The University is investing more than $100 million in an expansion of Duke Regional Hospital, which is anticipated to open in 2021.

The expansion will create additional space for the hospital’s emergency department and a new behavioral health facility. Duke Regional—located on North Roxboro Street in Durham—is owned by Durham County and operated by Duke University Health System on a long-term lease. 

“We’re really excited about this,” said Katie Galbraith, president of Duke Regional Hospital, noting that the expansion was part of the facility’s master plan.

The addition to the emergency department is needed due to the high utilization of the current facility, Galbraith said. Although it was intended to handle approximately 35,000 patients a year, the facility now sees nearly 64,000 visits annually. She added that many of the treatment rooms are undersized as well.

After the approximately 45,000 square-foot expansion, the emergency department will have 49 treatment rooms—up from the current 36—and 12 private observation rooms, doubling the existing total.

The investment will also include a new 112,000 square-foot behavioral health facility attached to the existing hospital. The two-story building will house 42 inpatient beds, an 18-bed mental health emergency department, 30 outpatient rooms and electroconvulsive therapy services. 

“As a health system and as a hospital, we recognized the considerable need in our community around behavioral health,” Galbraith said.

She added that having a dedicated facility will help improve the coordination and quality of patient care in the community.

Moira Rynn, chair for the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, noted that many workers and patients would benefit from the expansion.

“It’s going to be a tremendous gift to all of us—the providers, our educators who teach residents and medical students—and then for our patients and their families to have this wonderful facility to care for them,” she said. “It’s truly terrific.”

Rynn—who came to Duke as chair in 2017—noted that as a relatively new employee, part of what excited her about coming was the prospect of a new facility. 

The University intends to transfer 19 beds to the new facility, so the total number of beds available in the county will not increase. At present, there are 42 inpatient beds in Duke and Duke Regional Hospitals. However, Sarah Avery, director of Duke Health’s news office, wrote in an email that some of the current beds have limited utilization. This is because some current rooms are only semi-private, and space constraints at Duke Hospital limit the use of another bed.

Some employees and providers will be shifted to Duke Regional, Rynn said, but exact details have not yet been determined. Duke University Hospital will retain some psychiatric capabilities to respond to psychiatric emergencies and patients with other needs best addressed at Duke Hospital.

Rynn added that the new behavioral health facility was designed with patient needs in mind.

“There’s more space for them to be able to go outside if needed, more room to meet with families,” she said. “Most patient facilities are pretty limited on space.”

Both Rynn and Galbraith emphasized that the new facility was designed to be useful for student and resident learning. 

In total, the expansion is anticipated to cost $102.4 million and open in March of 2021. Funding for the project will come from the hospital system. Gabraith said this was the biggest project for Duke Regional since this hospital’s opening in 1976. Although she noted that there would be some construction-associated disruptions at Duke Regional, she said they would be minimized.

Galbraith praised the hospital board for embracing the project. 

“Not every health system across the country is investing this kind of money in behavioral health for their community,” she said. “I think this really shows that level of commitment that the health system and the University have.”