Elliot celebrates groundbreaking of new emergency department

·3 min read

Jun. 19—SolutionHealth celebrated the groundbreaking Friday of Elliot Hospital's new emergency department, a 22,000-square-foot project delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While hospital officials were focusing on patient care, its design team reworked the project to take advantage of lessons learned from the pandemic, hospital officials told a group of employees and community members gathered near the construction site in Manchester.

"From this, modifications were made to the designs of the reception, waiting room and triage areas that would allow us to isolate infectious patients, increase our ventilation and air filtration systems and also add additional oxygen ports to care for an increased number of patients in the emergency department in case of another pandemic," said Dr. Joseph Guarnaccia, medical director for emergency medicine.

The new emergency department will include three new trauma bays, 32 private rooms and existing four pediatric exam rooms, and six psychiatric evaluation rooms to treat the nearly 65,000 patients that visit the Manchester hospital's emergency department every year.

The project, which broke ground in March, will take 18 to 24 months, Guarnaccia said.

The first phase of the project, expected to be completed in February 2022, will include the construction of the new building and moving reception, triage, rapid triage and treatment areas into it. Phase two will include moving the rest of the emergency department and services into the building.

Mayor Joyce Craig told the group she was born at the Elliot Hospital as were her children.

"This is the hospital where I've also spent many hours at the ER with my children," Craig said. "This community is so grateful for now to have this renovation happen."

Craig thanked the hospital's leaders, board members and donors as well as its staff.

"We just went through an extremely difficult year," she said. "You were on the frontline spending countless hours around the clock serving our community, ensuring the health and safety of our community."

The expansion comes at a time when hospitals are trying to ensure their emergency rooms are not crowded by people seeking routine care, which drives up health care costs.

It's about the continuum of care, said Dr. Greg Baxter, president of Elliot Health System and chief clinical officer for SolutionHealth, which also includes Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua.

"I think we are beyond the idea that we're desirous of people choosing to come to the emergency department when there are other solid, valuable or more valuable options," he said during an interview after the ceremony.

"Urgent care is one opportunity that has popped up in New Hampshire, including the last 10 years, as well as primary care after-hour visits, and scheduled appointments," he said.

SolutionHealth recently launched an app that patients can use to schedule appointments at urgent care to decrease their wait times, he said. The health care provider is also embracing telemedicine, connecting patients and providers over video calls.

"We're really looking at how we can utilize that to help people make the best decision," Baxter said. "When you navigate the healthcare system, as a clinician I can help you navigate it, but when you enter it as a patient it can be a bit dizzying."

Mike Cote is senior editor for news and business. Contact him at mcote@unionleader.com or 206-7724.