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St John's Hospital's rebuild progresses

Hospital is also constructing a teaching center

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Moving through St. John’s Episcopal Hospital’s revamped emergency department, Facilities Manager Tom Farzetta whisked a Herald reporter through the new entrance, where patients, whether arriving in ambulances, passenger vehicles or on foot, can quickly get to the registration desk.

There is a waiting area with roughly 30 chairs and two high-definition televisions, one for entertainment and the other for health care information. The Far Rockaway hospital’s emergency department now has a medical-surgery unit, a fast-track area, behavioral health space and a new state-of-the art computerized tomography scanner.

When the three-phase reconstruction of St. John’s is completed, the emergency department will have expanded from 12,500 square feet to 22,000. Built in 1950, the emergency department was designed to treat 15,000 patients per year, but now serves more than 40,000 , in no small measure because of the 2012 closure of Peninsula Hospital. St. John’s is the only hospital on the Rockaway Peninsula, and also serves the Five Towns.

“Phase 1 and 1A are completed and we are moving to Phase 2, which should be completed by June 2020,” Farzetta said. In the construction area, he pointed to where the emergency department ended, and then to where it will be extended. “This will be really big when it’s finished,” he said.

The rebuild and the construction of a four-story, 32,000-square-foot building across the street from the hospital, on Beach 19th Street, are supported by a $10.15 million grant from the state Department of Health that was approved nearly two years ago. The new space will have 19 private treatment rooms, 21 internal disposition areas, six rapid-evaluation beds and, in a separate area, 14 psychiatric treatment areas. The expansion will allow the hospital to accommodate 50,000 patient visits a year. St. John’s currently has 257 beds, and is typically 85 percent occupied, officials have said.

“As the sole hospital in the Rockaways, community members turn to us when medical care is needed, especially during times of emergency,” said Gerard Walsh, the facility’s chief executive officer. “Through the enhancement of our emergency room, we are able to provide exceptional health care in the most efficient manner.”

In partnership with Ross University, which is in Florida, a new teaching center in a newly constructed building on Plainview Avenue will have four examination simulation laboratories, two general simulation labs, a large multi-use simulation lab, a simulation operating room and a multi-use auditorium. It will also offer a breast clinic and clinical services in audiology; cardiac and cardiothoracic care; dermatology; ear, nose and throat; endocrinology; hematology; neurology; OB/GYN; oncology; orthopedic; podiatry; pulmonary and vascular treatment.

“In addition to improving and expanding the physical environment of our emergency room, patients will also have access to new, state-of-the-art equipment,” said Dr. Donald Morrish, the hospital’s chief medical officer. “This equipment can literally help save your life, especially during times of emergency, when every second counts.”

Through another door and into the hospital lobby, Thomas Mellilo, the director of marketing and strategic planning, said, “If you’re nostalgic for the lobby, look now, because [this] week, this will be cordoned off.”

The lobby will be overhauled and then seamlessly connected to an area with a pharmacy, which opened on May 29, as well as a new gift shop and a café featuring Starbucks products. The pharmacy is only accepting cash payments for the time being, because state approval for accepting health insurance is still pending.