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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sacred Heart to expand ER in $19 million project

An architectural drawing shows an expanded and renovated emergency room for Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital. (Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center)
An architectural drawing shows an expanded and renovated emergency room for Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital. (Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center)

Construction crews will start work next week on an $18.6 million emergency department expansion and remodeling project at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

About 80,000 people used the Sacred Heart emergency room last year, making it the busiest in Eastern Washington.

The construction is expected to take about 18 months and add more than 14,000 square feet of space. The new addition will jut out from the existing emergency room, drawings show.

Sacred Heart CEO Elaine Couture said one big change will be separate treatment areas for children and adults.

“Emergency rooms can be an especially scary place for kids,” she said. “We think having different areas will expand our services to children throughout the region.”

The project has been on the books for several years. Executives considered health care reform, financing and other trends before settling on a construction timeline.

The hospital has a separate expansion proposal that has been the subject of a long regulatory review.

The new emergency department work will include another 15 emergency exam rooms; seven rooms that will serve as holding areas for people with mental illness; a psychiatry triage room for children; larger waiting areas; an atrium and a coffee bar.

Sacred Heart is the region’s Level II trauma center, handling patients critically injured in accidents and other situations. The other hospitals in Spokane also run emergency rooms but do not share the high-level trauma designation.

Emergency rooms have become magnets for the growing number of uninsured patients who don’t have a doctor or clinic, and thus use emergency rooms for primary care. Though they still return a slight profit margin for hospitals, Couture said changes in how the state will reimburse hospitals for treating the poor could reverse that scenario.

State budget issues have led to Medicaid cutbacks – specifically, not reimbursing hospitals for treating patients for more than three non-emergency visits in any given year.

Hospitals and emergency room staff and physicians have called the changes chilling, even dangerous, as a deterrent to patients needing care.

Regulators are now attempting to work with hospital groups to settle on the list of non-emergency conditions.

Sacred Heart spokesman Joe Robb said the emergency room construction may be an inconvenience to patients and staff. Walk-in emergency patients will use a different entrance, and parking at times will present a challenge, Robb said.

Signs with directions and an explanation of the construction project will be posted on the Sacred Heart campus, he said.

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