GLENDORA, Calif. -- A much-needed San Gabriel Valley, Calif, emergency room has opened its doors and already has been put to the test.
In the nearly three weeks since Foothill Presbyterian Hospital s $14.4 million addition opened, the ER has twice overflowed with sick and injured patients, officials said. And that s after the hospital doubled its emergency capacity to 23 beds from 11.
Patients are arriving from all over the valley, staff said.
They re probably coming up just to take a look, said Director of Emergency Services Robert Ower. We like to show it off, so it s OK.
The new emergency room arrives as a crisis in the health care industry has forced uninsured patients to rely on emergency services for their primary care, causing ER crowding to rise rapidly, hospital officials said.
At the same time, the region has endured the closure of several emergency facilities, further putting pressure on the remaining emergency rooms. St. Luke Medical Center in east Pasadena closed in 2002 and Santa Teresita Hospital in Duarte abruptly shut its doors in 2004.
Pasadena s Huntington Hospital -- with the only remaining trauma center in the Valley -- absorbed many of the patients who would have gone to the two now-shuttered emergency rooms. But Foothill Presbyterian has also seen a marked increase in numbers of patients in the past five years, officials said.
We always read about hospitals downsizing, but there are hospitals that are filling the gap, said Larry Fetters, the hospital s administrator.
The hospital is managed by the same health group that runs the Queen of the Valley and Inter-Community campuses of Citrus Valley Medical Center.
Foothill Presbyterian is not considered a trauma center, a label that the county applies to hospital facilities capable of treating the most severe emergencies and offering specialized surgeries around the clock. But the new ER does have an operating room able to handle two serious surgeries at once, hospital representatives said.
It was obvious several years ago that a new facility was needed. We hit a point where we could not see any more patients, Ower said, recounting gurneys lining the hallways of the old ER.
About 30 percent of the time, the hospital was on diversion, meaning it could not accept additional patients, he said.
The new emergency room, at 17,000 square feet, is three times as big as the previous one.
Emergency rooms have come a long way since that old ER was designed back in the 1970s, said Dr. Scott Isbell, medical director of the hospital s emergency department. Isbell joined the 105-bed hospital five years after it opened in 1973.
It was difficult getting all of the machines into the room, he said, noting that sometimes there were fewer electrical outlets than were needed. It was very hectic, very crowded.
The new ER was paid for by private donations from the community, including the hospital s doctors and staff. The official name, the Arthur and Sarah Ludwick Emergency Care Pavilion, reflects the major financial support of two longtime Glendora philanthropists.
The Foothill Foundation, the nonprofit hospital s fundraising arm, gathered the money through a five-year campaign that will continue until the end of December, representatives said.
Three nursing stations -- capable of monitoring 21 patients -- are situated throughout the emergency room, which is lit in part by skylights.
The ER also now has two entrances, one for ambulances and one for patients who come in on their own. They use to have just one. Two waiting areas include a space for children.
Patients who enter the emergency waiting room are received and almost immediately brought to a bed. They are seen by a triage nurse and registered at their bedside.
There are a lot of patients we re seeing in about five minutes, said Isbell, adding that it used to take 30 minutes or more.
The real trick in keeping the emergency room flowing well, Isbell said, is always having a bed open.