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Stevens Community Medical Center preparing for major upgrade to emergency room

Stevens Community Medical Center in Morris is undergoing a $2 million renovation that is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. The major upgrade will be a new emergency room with space to treat four patients in private rooms.

MORRIS – If you visit Stevens Community Medical Center over the next several months, the hospital will likely look a little different from the last time you were there.

SCMC is about two months into a multi-phase, $2 million renovation that will effectively reorganize the hospital and provide a state-of-the-art emergency room facility for patients.

The existing emergency room was built in 1977 and was considered state-of-the-art for the time. However, changes in medical practice and patients' expectations for privacy have left the emergency room dated.

“The design really does not lend itself to the way we practice medicine now,” said John Rau, president and CEO of Stevens Community Medical Center. “If we have a multiple [victim] car accident, all of the patients are literally going to be side-by-side in one big area.”

“The nursing staff and the physicians of the organization have felt that this is something we definitely needed to do.”

The new emergency room will have four private areas – one large trauma area and three back-up exam treatment rooms – and a nursing station.

In addition to upgrading the emergency room, SCMC will also be enclosing the ambulance bay so that in the winter patients aren't exposed to the outside while they're being moved into the emergency room.

The SCMC Board of Directors voted to move forward with the project last fall and construction began in April. The entire project is expected to be finished by the end of 2013.

The challenge in upgrading and expanding the emergency room is finding space in the existing building.

“A lot of facilities have made the determination to just start a new campus in another location, but we felt very strongly that we wanted to stay on this site, in this location, in the community,” said Rau.

As a result, the project will be done in stages, starting with office moves and a renovation on the second floor for a new endoscopy wing.

Once the endoscopy unit moves upstairs in mid-July, contractors will start work on the new emergency room area. The existing emergency room will remain functional and intact throughout construction, since it is not connected to the new ER space.

When the new emergency room is operational, the old emergency room space will be converted to space for ultrasound and mammography.

“This is quite a phased process to make sure that at no point in time we ever discontinue providing any of the services that we have within the building right now,” said Rau.

After all is said and done, SCMC will have filled up all of the extra space in the existing building. If the organization needs to expand in the future, they will have to look at another addition on the west side of the building that would add 10 more beds and extra office space, Rau said.