By Jordan Degalia
The emergency room at Salem Health has notoriously long wait times. Located across the street from Willamette, this hospital serves as the closest place students can go in the event of an emergency when Bishop Wellness Center and smaller clinics based off of a student’s individual insurance plan are not sufficient enough to treat them.
Student Landry Ferguson found this out last October when their friend began having uncontrollable seizures. They recall waiting five hours while their friend continued to have seizures with no alleviation from the medical staff. Landry elaborated that, aside from the wait, there was construction in the waiting room and due to their friend’s light and noise sensitivity they had to move outside in the hallway where their friend still had “over 30 seizures and waited an additional hour and a half after being taken to a room until a doctor could see her.”
Salem Health seeks to alleviate this issue with a new expansion. As the “busiest ER on the West Coast between Canada and San Francisco, seeing over 300 patients per day on average,” the hospital hopes that this expansion will decrease wait-times and better support the Salem population.
With a population of 154,637 and an approximate expected annual growth rate of 1.3 percent, nurses and hospital staff alike are hopeful these upgrades should accommodate the needs of the continually growing population in Salem. As the hospital describes it, “Rapid population growth, an aging population and declining overall health in the Mid-Willamette Valley mean growing health care needs.”
On Feb. 15, Salem Health opened its $3 million expansion to the public. It had been five months since the expansion began last September. According to a statement by the hospital, this expansion includes “more exam rooms and a new treatment track for patients with less complicated diagnoses.” If the updates do as they’re intended, less serious medical conditions can be addressed faster while also prioritizing those with the most serious medical concerns.
This expansion marks the third expansion of the emergency department within Building A. More specifically, the expansion includes “adding eight treatment rooms, two consult rooms, a phlebotomy draw station, 24 results-pending chairs and a new treatment track for patients with less complicated diagnoses.”
Additionally the design also consists of “a redesign of the flow of patients, with the goal to decrease the time it takes for patients to see a provider.”
All of these renovations are expected to begin decreasing wait times no matter the severity of a medical emergency.
Being able to address less serious medical problems while also being able to prioritize serious conditions should certainly help students at WU. Sarah Horn, RN, Salem Health chief nursing officer explains that “these changes will allow us to see patients in a much more efficient and timely manner and we’re excited to have it up and running.”
As Salem’s population grows, the facilities of a city must grow too. Salem Health recognizes this need and is continually working to better accommodate the citizens of Salem. Only time will tell if this expansion reduces the wait-time sufficiently so that fewer people spend half a day waiting to be seen.