Expansion at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital Improves Patient Flow

By Roxanne Squires

ST. THOMAS, Ontario, Canada — The St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) celebrated its grand opening earlier this year for what’s being dubbed by the project team as the “Great Expansion.” The addition includes a completely new emergency room, surgery and central processing departments and a new 17-bed Mental Health unit in a design created to help with efficiency and wayfinding.

Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater partnered with the Toronto architectural firm Montgomery-Sisam on this Ministry of Health–approved Redevelopment Project, breaking ground on the $98 million expansion in 2015. The project was financed by raised funds including $16 million, comprised of 10 percent of construction costs and 100 percent of the cost of the new equipment. The county of Elgin and city of St. Thomas paid $3.5 million each with the rest made by community donors.

The lustrous design holds new, state-of-the-art equipment and provides two separate entryways including the “front of the house” entrance for patients accessing emergency, surgical and outpatient services, and another back entrance for arriving ambulances. The expansion also includes the conversion of the basement into a sterile processing unit and wider hallways.

According to a statement from Kahler Slater, an emphasis was placed on bolstering both patient experience and staff efficiencies by improving adjacencies and lessening footsteps. Kahler Slater’s team led staff through a process to develop a functional and clinical design for the project while concentrating on merging the addition with the existing facility to improve wayfinding for public and staff flows.

The project’s two key goals were to ensure healthcare providers spend 80 percent of their time caring for patients and that every patient entering the emergency department requiring admittance could be checked in within 60 minutes.

Before the expansion, the facility was designed to hold roughly 20,000 patients while the number of patients reached up to 52,000. The emergency department, located on the ground floor, is now geared toward high-volume patient accommodations and lowering wait times, with rooms designed under a regulatory method to reduce the chance of errors.

Prior to the expansion, the hospital also had issues with their paging system caused by temporary connectivity issues. Now, STEGH replaced its operating paging system with Vocera Voice and integrated Vocera with other technologies at the hospital, including the Medworxx Bed Board bed optimization system (BOS). The BOS provides a data repository and graphical representation of all the beds in a hospital unit and the status of those beds. Consequently, this has helped improve bed turnover rates and decreased the length of patient stays.

A statement from Kahler Slater explained that the recent advancement capitalizes on current operational improvement work that reduces emergency wait times and improved workflow. By implementing a “front of house” entrance design for patients arriving, they separate the experience from the emergency vehicle entrance, which was previously joined. The design with the back- and front-of-house spaces help ensure patient dignity, privacy and comfort within the facility.