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The University of Chicago Medicine began treating patients in its new, state-of-the-art adult emergency department (ED) on Friday, Dec. 29. The larger, more modern facility – the newest and most advanced of its kind in Chicago – cared for about 200 patients in its first 24 hours.
The new ED, located in the ground floor of 5656 S. Maryland Ave., replaced the previous facility in the Bernard A. Mitchell Hospital that was built in 1983.
Stephanie Brown, 19, was the first patient to be treated. She came to the ED fearing frostbite in her foot and was eventually discharged.
"It's more spacious," she said of the new facility. She used the Mitchell ED while she was pregnant, she said. "It's nice. I like all of the attention."
The ED will eventually become the entry point for adult trauma patients, including those who have experienced car crashes, serious falls, major head injuries and incidents of intentional violence. UChicago Medicine expects to begin providing adult trauma services in May 2018, pending approval by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
UChicago Medicine's Comer Children's Hospital will continue to provide trauma services for children with critical injuries.
The $39 million adult ED is designed to improve medical care. It uses top-of-the-line equipment and a smart design, which means treatment is both faster and more private. The facility is adjacent to UChicago Medicine’s Center for Care and Discovery. That ensures efficient access to operating rooms and intensive care units. The ED also features a “rapid assessment unit,” a new approach to emergency medicine where caregivers quickly assess and treat patients based on the severity of their illness or injury.
Doctors, nurses, technicians and other care providers working during the ED's inaugural shift said they could see immediate improvements.
"The rapid ED is a good concept, I’m excited about it," said Christina Ochoa, RN, a staff nurse who cared for the first patients in the rapid assessment unit. "I think it will help the flow better and get patients back quicker. Instead of just waiting, they can come here and be seen faster. They’ll be a lot happier."
The new ED's features also include dedicated imaging services, including a CT scanner and two state-of-the-art X-ray machines so patients no longer have to share imaging services with other hospital units.
Shortly after the doors in the new emergency room opened, staff began "decommissioning" the space in the adult ED in the Mitchell Hospital. Only one patient had to be moved between the two EDs.
William Johnson, 79, walked into the ED complaining of arm and neck pain. He had used the Mitchell ED in the past, but he anticipated a better experience on this visit.
"In the old ER, you used to stay an hour or two hours," he said. "So, as of right now, it's great because I don't think I'll be here that long."
UChicago Medicine team members helped direct people to the new ED. Signs posted inside and outside of the Mitchell ED will remain visible for several weeks to help guide patients and visitors to the new facility.
Throughout the day, the emergency medicine team cared for patients. Employees working in the space had spent months training in the new location to make sure they're familiar with the layout and the new set up.
Thomas Spiegel, MD, the department's medical director, said he was "very pleased" with the early performance of the new ED.
"The patients we've been able to treat initially have been pleased with the prompt service, and it's all going very well," he said. "The next few months are going to be very important to prepare for the immediate response that will be required in trauma care. We need to fine-tune every system that we have in this operation. The challenge we have today is to keep this going."