ER Construction Ushers in New Era of Emergency Care in Humboldt County

Humboldt General Hospital’s Emergency Department stands ready to launch a new era of emergency patient care in Humboldt County.

The hospital’s emergency care unit officially passed inspection Thursday, January 4, and staff members who had been working in half the unit while the other half was constructed didn’t lose any time claiming the entire department.

“We were ready,” laughed HGH Emergency Services Manager Robyn Dunckhorst of the completion. “This has been a long time in planning, design and now construction and we are excited to introduce this new level of care to our community.”

The ER project is the fifth and final phase of construction in a seven-year-plan that saw the addition of a new medical office building to Humboldt General Hospital; an expansion/remodel of the hospital’s Acute Department; construction of the Quail Corner Life Enrichment Community, Rural Health Clinic and HGH Mother and Baby Unit; a complete remodel of the Harmony Manor Skilled Nursing and Residential Care Community; and major expansions to the Surgery and Emergency departments.

Not only did the six-month renovation and expansion project resolve privacy, infection control and storage issues, but Dunckhorst said it also addressed the potential emergency needs of a very diverse community.

“While the number of patients who access ER services hasn’t risen much over the past years,” said Dunckhorst, “the acuity of those visits has grown dramatically.”

Dunckhorst said hospital staff and project architects did their homework to design a space that could improve patient outcomes and experience in a variety of situations.

For instance, the new Emergency Department has doubled the number of patient rooms from four to eight, which means patients can usually be roomed immediately—something that was impossible before due to the former ER’s limited space.

Just last week, Dunckhorst said the ER treated 27 patients in five hours with no wait time.

What’s more, those eight rooms fill a variety of purposes that were unavailable before. Consider the new facility’s two very large and well-equipped trauma rooms.

Before, the ER had one small trauma room that was difficult for staff to navigate during life-and-death situations. Now, both trauma rooms are large enough to accommodate a trauma team at center as well as other auxiliary staff members.

The new ER also includes two rooms that, with the aid of garage-type doors that cover equipment and supplies, can easily become safe zones for mental health patients awaiting transport to Reno.

Another room has an upright examination chair for ear, nose and throat issues, sutures and other conditions that are more conducive to sitting up.

A negative pressure room, complete with an anteroom where staff can gown up, is designed for patients with highly contagious diseases such as Ebola, tuberculosis and others.

The unit even includes a decontamination room for patients who have been exposed to hazardous materials or who are battling highly infectious diseases.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that all rooms have sliding glass doors and privacy curtains. The new unit even includes a system where ER staff can monitor patients individually or at the same time, as needed.

Other highlights include upgraded restroom facilities, significantly more storage space, a triage area for patients waiting to be roomed, a paramedic dictation room, and more accommodating staff and administrative space.

The unit also abuts Humboldt General Hospital’s new Surgery Department; in case of surgical emergency, transfer between the two is now only a matter of seconds.

“We honestly hope our community never needs to come here,” said Dunckhorst, “but if they do, we are equipped to ensure good patient outcomes, and a good patient experience.”

Humboldt General Hospital’s Emergency Department is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The unit’s entrance faces Mizpah Street, and is directly across the street from the skate park at Paul Vesco City Park.

Patients are served based on the acuity of their condition. In case of emergency, patients should always dial 9-1-1.