The first phase of Wilkes Regional Medical Center’s expansion of the emergency department (ED) and the 2,200 square-foot addition of the heart center, located adjacent to the ED is scheduled to open later this month.
That announcement came during the Health Foundation’s annual meeting on Tuesday morning, which included a tour of the new facilities. The meeting was held on the 60th anniversary of Wilkes General Hospital’s opening on May 1, 1952.
“The emergency room was renovated in the 1980s and at that time was designed to treat 15,000 patients a year,” said Gene Faile, WRMC administrator during The Health Foundation’s annual meeting and tour.
“Today we are seeing 32,000 patients a year.”
When the hospital opened in 1952, there were two ER rooms with no doctor on the premises. On that first day, the ER saw two patients. This past Friday 115 people were seen in the ED.
“We are building for today and the future,” said Faile. “Wilkes Countians have stood behind this hospital for the past 60 years and we appreciate that.”
The new 9,500-square-foot expansion doubles the size of the emergency department (ED), increasing the number of exam rooms from 17 to 29 and adding a spacious waiting room, complete with skylights and a much improved reception area. There will also be a triage area for doctors to assess the condition of ED patients.
The expansion includes the 2,200-square-foot heart center, located adjacent to the ED. It is scheduled to open Monday, May 14. That space includes a separate waiting room, six treatment rooms, three stress testing labs, a nursing station and two doctor’s offices. The physicians will perform stress tests, echocardiograms and EKGs in the center.
A new parking area will add over 40 more parking spaces on the west side of the building on the hillside. The area is in front of the hospital, adjacent to the main hospital entrance.
Faile noted that medical expertise has progressed and now there are board certified ED physicians on site 24 hours a day. The renovations will include rooms designed for specific treatments such as orthopedic, behavioral and more.
Jackie Hall of North Wilkesboro spoke to the group about the importance of quality emergency room care. During recent visits she said she received excellent care that was close by and with modern equipment used by professionals who knew how to use them.
“At no time was I afraid… I felt cared for and cared about. When you are hurting, you want someone to care for you as soon as possible,” said Mrs. Hall.
Faile and Mrs. Hall praised the hospital staff for their dedication and excellence.
“We are becoming a regional center for the area because we offer the highest standard of quality care,” said Faile.
During a recent award ceremony for the 33 hospitals in the Carolina Healthcare Center, WRMC was the only hospital to receive three awards, noted Faile.
Those awards were for quality, service and largest gain in market share. Faile said Wilkes residents are returning to WRMC, joined by residents of surrounding counties.
Heather Murphy, executive director for The Health Foundation also noted the importance of quality emergency room care.
“In baseball, before you can get home you have to reach first base. Our community hospital’s emergency department is first base for those who are ill or injured,” said Mrs. Murphy.
She thanked The Health Foundation’s membership for its generous support.
“Our projects are both large and small. Our board of directors has made a commitment to raise funds to help defray the cost of the renovations to our community’s emergency department and heart center.
Cost for the hospital’s renovation is $15.5 million.
“We’ve already received contributions from the hospital’s board of directors, The Health Foundation board members, and over 100 hospital employees. We now turn to our membership to encourage your support,” said Mrs. Murphy.
The Health Foundation raises money for health care initiatives here. Its past projects include the renovation of West Park into a medical park, the Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Day Care Center, The Wilkes Public Health Dental Clinic, the MESH unit, the kidney dialysis center, the on-site helipad, and the renovation of the women’s center at Wilkes Regional. The Health Foundation also makes grants to local nonprofits focused on health care initiatives.
Duirng the meeting Tuesday, The Health Foundation President Jim Smoak thanked The Health Foundation members for their loyal and generous support.