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Second phase of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital’s emergency department completed

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St. John’s Episcopal Hospital officials plan not to perpetuate the medical nightmare of having gurneys full of patients lining the hallways of its emergency department as the second phase of the overall is completed which has expanded the area from roughly 10,000 square feet to 21,000 square feet.

Now serving the 148,000 residents of the Rockaway Peninsula, along with people in the Five Towns, the Far Rockaway hospital serves nearly 49,000 emergency patients annually. The original emergency department built 72 years ago was designed to treat 15,000 patients per year.

The volume has also jumped in no small part because of the 2012 closure of Peninsula Hospital. St. John’s is the only hospital in the Rockaways. St. John’s has 257 beds, and is typically 85 percent occupied, officials said.

There are 18 private rooms, including three just for pediatric patients, a half dozen rapid-evaluation beds, two nurses stations, a technologically advanced CT scanner, negative pressure rooms that help to prevent the spread of airborne diseases such as Covid-19, a dedicated OBGYN room and a decontamination room, along with six outside showers and showers inside.

The new emergency department appears to be more than the $10.15 million New York State Department of Health grant that supported the expansion, along with the construction of a four-story, 32,000 square foot outpatient facility across the street from St. John’s. The grant was awarded in 2017.

“There were six specific goals associated with project,” said Renee Hastick Motes, the vice president of external affairs at St. John’s. “We wanted to strengthen access to primary care on the Peninsula by the addition of two medical home sites on the hospital campus, one of which is co-located with outpatient behavior health services. The second goal was to allow patients who come to the ED, who do not need emergency services to be treated in an appropriate primary care setting.”

The other goals Motes said were to ratchet up access to hospital services despite a lack of primary care services in the community, develop a stronger integrated delivery system that provides strengthened outpatient behavioral health services, improve the crisis stabilization process and physical plant to improve care for behavioral health needs of the community and upgrade the way emergency care is provided to pediatric patients.

Through a tour of the completed second phase on Sept. 16, Dr. Teddy Lee, chairman of emergency department medicine, and Dr. Judy Modica, director of critical care service line, took several people into the rooms and explained the uses and how the patients will flow through the emergency department from ambulance or as a walk-in to treatment and discharge.

“With the CT scanner located here and not having to go downstairs if someone comes having a stroke we can diagnose right away and in a timely fashion,” Lee said.

Modica noted how the rapid-bed evaluation has taken 15 minutes in the pas three months of use. The emergency department is staffed by three shifts of nurses typically with no fewer than eight nurses, she said. Lee said that the department is staffed by hospital doctors in blocks of hours, along with midlevel medical personnel such as physicians assistants.

“We are constantly evaluating the health care needs of the people in the communities that we serve so that we make  sure that we are able to provide necessary services,” hospital CEO Jerry Walsh said in a statement. “Our patients and community members depend on us to provide excellent health care, and that is what we intend to continue to do.”

A third phase is anticipated to be completed within the next nine months and a surgery unit will be added.