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Hospital, ED to see renovations, helipad

If the large hydraulic crane that loomed over Erwin Road this past week is any indication, Duke University Hospital is undergoing some big changes.

The crane-the largest in the state and dubbed "Mighty Duke" by hospital renovation planners-was used to transfer heavy steel pads to the roof of the hospital's new helipad-one of the many construction projects now underway at the hospital.

Slated for completion in 2007, renovations are also being made to the hospital's Emergency Department. These changes will include a new entry drive and ambulance bay, an expanded lobby, more areas devoted to intensively ill patients, triage and resuscitation rooms and new adult and pediatric patient rooms with state-of-the-art technologies.

Architects said the 20-plus-year-old ED can no longer accommodate the current volume of patients it receives.

"The majority of patients admitted into the hospital go through the emergency room," said Jeff Doucette, associate operating officer for emergency services, who referred to the ED as the "front door of the hospital."

Kathy Finch, clinical coordinator for the construction project, said the most exciting aspect of the renovation is the addition of technology "that not only meets but will exceed current standards"-including an X-ray machine and CT scanner in each ED patient room.

In addition, each patient room will house its own computer with wireless Internet so doctors and nurses can keep up to date with medical records.

The new renovations will also help the ED improve its ability to deal with large volume incidents with massive casualty ratings, Finch said.

In the works are four decontamination showers for exposure to chemicals, radiation or biological weapons, as well as a new resuscitation room.

"We're just so crunched for space right now, I'm very excited we will be able to spread out," Doucette said.

Other additions include 25,000-square-foot expansion to the lobby, as well as private rooms and private bays for patients.

A different setup will be applied in the pediatric expansion, Finch said.

A new 18-bed pediatric area will facilitate care for cases ranging from minor injuries to more complicated conditions.

"Physicians, nurses and other staff will work as a team around those other patients to make it effective and easy," Finch said.

Renovations will not only change the physical layout of the Hospital, but will also "fundamentally change the way we do business," Doucette said.

"It's a linear design," he explained.

"The staff functions in the middle parts and the families coming in kind of have their own hallways to separate them from the hubbub," he said.

He added that in addition to making the operation of the facility more efficient for the hospital staff, the model will also benefit recuperating patients by keeping them away from excess noise.

Although the design may appear to distance patients and doctors, Doucette said the new layout will increase efficiency-allowing doctors to actually spend more time with patients, instead of less.

The renovations will relieve traffic outside the hospital as well, thanks to a new docking bay for ambulances located further away from the public entrance, said Shawn Subasic, director for the facility planning, design and construction office.

A new ambulance bay location will prevent interactions between patients entering the hospital with minor injuries and trauma patients being unloaded from ambulances, he said.

Subasic said the renovations "have been going relatively smoothly for the complexity of the project."

Renovators used set phases for construction so as to not impede patient flow into the ED.

"It really will be a world class facility," Doucette said. "We already provide an advanced level of care-just now we will have a facility that mirrors the level of care that we provide."

Finch agreed that the new renovations will elevate the status of the already world-renowned hospital.

"That's our goal," Finch said. "We want to set the standard in emergency medicine."

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