SAN RAMON - To keep up with rapid growth in the area, San Ramon Regional Medical Center will open a new emergency department next week with more beds, a spacious waiting room and an isolation area for patients who have extremely contagious diseases.
A new computer program will enable people to go online from home to see how long the emergency department wait is.
Those who have non-life-threatening problems such as a twisted ankle or bad migraine can schedule tentative appointments for treatment, pay a $9.99 registration fee, and wait in the comfort of their home. If they are not seen within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, the fee will be refunded.
The $10.7 million expansion, under construction for more than a year, will better equip the hospital to deal with a major disaster, said Chief Executive Officer Gary Sloan.
Residents can get a sneak preview during an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The hospital is at 6001 Norris Canyon Road in San Ramon.
"We are trying to expand with our rapidly growing community," Sloan said. "When patients come in, they'll now be afforded more privacy and more efficiency."
The 8,900-square-foot addition will increase emergency department capacity from nine to 16 beds.
Private treatment rooms will have flat-screen televisions to help patients pass the time, and computers that will enable doctors and nurses to chart medical records bedside, said Reshea Holman, administrative director of emergency services.
Unlike the cramped waiting area in the old emergency department, the new location will seat 25 people comfortably and will have an area with smaller chairs and toys for children, Holman said.
One of the more unusual features will be what hospital officials are calling InQuickER. Residents can go to www.OurSanRamonHospital.com , click on the InQuickER banner, and get an estimate of the anticipated emergency room wait time, with information updated every five minutes.
People can also fill out a short form online, list their symptoms, pay the registration fee and schedule a tentative appointment for that day. The hospital has determined when it typically has a low volume of emergency patients and will make selected appointments available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Holman said.
At a time when some California hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open, the 123-bed San Ramon Regional Medical Center financed its expansion through money from its corporate parent, Tenet Healthcare Corp.
The emergency department, open around the clock, has about 17,000 visits a year and has a pediatrician on site from Children's Hospital Oakland.
Outside, a new ambulance entrance will have two showers to decontaminate paramedics and emergency workers who have been exposed to hazardous chemicals.
Inside, a negative-pressure isolation room will help prevent bacteria from spreading. It will be used for patients who have tuberculosis and other highly contagious infections, Holman said.
An orthopedic room that is about four feet deeper than other rooms will provide space to bring in X-ray equipment.
To make treatment faster, the emergency area will have a new radiology suite installed by June so that patients will no longer have to be transferred to other areas for X-rays, Holman said.
The hospital, which treats patients who are undergoing a serious form of heart attack known as a STEMI, will also have a cardiac catheterization lab installed in its emergency department by the end of the year, Holman said, which should enable faster treatment.
A remodeled clinical laboratory will have new chemistry analyzers, which should make it possible to obtain test results faster, said Vera Foster, director of laboratory services.