A cold wind cut through the coats of Tanner Health System staff members and contractors working outside during the predawn hours Wednesday.
They were pulling the covers off the signage for the new emergency department at Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica.
Hidden for months as crews finished the construction project, the unit was ready to accept its first patients Wednesday and it was time to light the new signs for the emergency department and ambulance bay.
In the hospital’s former emergency department, clinical staff continued to care for two patients, including one who was being discharged as the new unit began operations.
Staff members then left the old unit to continue their shifts in the new space while Tanner security staff stood watch outside the former emergency department to reroute any arrivals to the new unit.
And it did not take long. Within the first hour, the unit already had three patients in various stages of triage and evaluation.
“It’s exciting,” said Eric Dalton, administrator for Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica, in a news release. “A lot of people have put their time and talents into making this morning successful.
“Our goal was to make this transition seamless for our patients, and I think we’ve accomplished that. Now, we have an emergency department that can serve our community for years to come.”
Citing the area’s growing population, Tanner broke ground on the $37 million expansion that nearly doubled the footprint of the 40-bed acute care hospital in January 2017.
When the former emergency department opened with the rest of the Villa Rica facility in 2003, the city’s population was pushing 8,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Now, Villa Rica’s population has topped 15,000 and continues to grow, as do the number of residents in western Douglas, southern Paulding and northern Carroll counties surrounding the hospital.
Systemwide, Tanner provides care for about 100,000 emergency department visits each year — about a third of which are treated through the emergency department at the Villa Rica hospital.
As with most other hospitals, the emergency department is also the leading source of inpatient admissions for the facility, the release stated.
The new emergency department offers 37 private exam rooms — more than twice the former unit — as well as on-unit diagnostic imaging services featuring ultrasound, digital X-ray and CT services. Board-certified, fellowship-trained emergency medicine physicians and advanced-practice providers, as well as specially trained emergency nurses and other clinicians, staff the unit.
“We’re so excited to be able to deliver care in a facility of this caliber,” said emergency department nurse manager Jill Williams.
“Emergency care is something no one expects to need, but everyone does at some point in time,” she said. “In this area, when that need arises, we’ll have the space and the team to help take care of our neighbors.”
Along with the new emergency department, the expansion also features a new surgical services center, complete with state-of-the-art surgical suites capable of providing the latest minimally invasive procedures, as well as more involved orthopedic surgeries like total joint replacements.
The unit also offers more than twice the number of pre-op rooms compared to the current unit, two new gastroenterology suites and a new post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) for patients to receive care immediately following surgery.
The new surgical care unit is scheduled to perform its first cases Dec. 17, the release stated.