It’s a bright new day in the Emergency Department at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway. Relegated to history is a former cramped and overcrowded environment; no longer are patients crammed into bays separated by only a curtain for privacy while other patients are backed up on gurneys in the hallways.
The hospital, which serves the Rockaway Peninsula and the Five Towns, has completed the second phase of its ED renovation, more than doubling its area to 21,000 square feet.
The original Emergency Department built 72 years ago was designed for 15,000 patients per year, but St. John’s now treats 49,000 emergency patients. It’s been the only hospital in the Rockaways since the 2012 closure of Peninsula Hospital. St. John’s has 257 beds, and is typically 85 percent occupied, officials said.
The new Emergency Department features 18 private rooms, including three 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 expansion, along with construction of a four-story, 32,000 square foot outpatient facility across the street from the hospital, was supported by a $10.15 million New York State Department of Health grant.
“There were six specific goals associated with project,” said Renee Hastick Motes, 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 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, Motes said.
Through a tour on Sept. 16, ED Chairman Dr. Teddy Lee 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.”
The third and final phase is anticipated to be completed within the next nine months and a surgery unit will be added, said Facilities Manager Tom Farzetta.
“This new ED means that every patient that comes through our doors will be able to receive emergency care in a space that was renovated and expanded with the patient in mind,” Motes said.