PHOTOS: Scenes From The Opening Of Highline Medical Center's New ER

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by Ralph Nichols

An emergency room is one place no one (unless they work there) really wants to go. But on Saturday (April 10), a large crowd of visitors came for an inside look at Highline Medical Center’s new state-of-the-art Emergency Department.

Judging from their reactions, they liked what they saw. It is an impressive facility in every way.

The new Emergency Department opens its doors to patients at 6 a.m. Tuesday, April 13. Those patients already undergoing treatment in the old emergency room will finish being cared for there, but by mid-morning it should be closed.

While it still won’t ease the extreme pain of kidney stones or broken bones, or the acute discomfort of pneumonia or appendicitis, this facility is designed to make patients a lot more comfortable while they have to be there.

The first thing that caught my attention upon walking into the Emergency Department during Saturday’s grand opening was the small number of chairs in the bright and airy admitting area – far fewer than in the old waiting area.

With three triage rooms – compared to just one in the old emergency room – more patients can be assessed at the same time. Fewer patients, with their family members or friends, will have to wait up front before they are seen initially.

They will then go to one of 32 private examination rooms, each “hardwired” with state-of-the-art technology to handle any emergency. The admission process can be completed in the exam rooms, which also adds to their comfort as well as privacy. All orders, tests and procedures will be charted electronically.

Another impressive aspect of the new Emergency Department, especially for anyone who has spent time in the old one, is not one but two adjacent main nursing stations. Including an enclosed physician’s room for charting and consultation, they look almost as big as the existing emergency facility.

With 27,000 square feet, it is three times the size of the old treatment area, which has just 19 examination rooms – including a number of beds that are not private – and will significantly improve the work environment for physicians, nurses, imaging and laboratory technicians, and everyone else who works and volunteers there.

A third nursing station will support treatment of less-serious emergencies. The three stations not only create a roomier work area for nurses but also make possible more efficient patient monitoring.

Patients with severe chest pain, symptoms of stroke, or other serious conditions who arrive by ambulance will be taken to the two highly equipped, adjoining trauma rooms – just inside an ambulance bay with room for nine emergency vehicles – with moveable high-tech equipment overhead.

Although not “inviting,” it was nevertheless reassuring for Highline-area residents to the degree of high-level care that is available only minutes from their homes or work.

One of the busiest medical staff members during the open house was radiologist David Henley, M.D., who explained to visitors the high-speed, high-resolution, state-of-the-art CT scanner that takes 64 image slices at one time, giving radiologists and emergency physicians three-dimensional views of the body for more precise diagnoses.

Both the facility’s CT and x-ray suites are dedicated for emergency patients – and have a separate diagnostic imaging waiting room are located just beyond the triage rooms.

Highline Medical Center treats about 50,000 emergency patients annually, making this one of the busiest emergency departments in the area.

Photographer Michael Brunk dropped by Saturday’s opening and took these photos:

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