Solid investment in health care

Published 10:12 pm Tuesday, January 28, 2020

After nine years of its emergency department bursting at the seams, Sentara Obici Hospital now plans to undertake a $13 million expansion that will dramatically increase its capacity to serve patients.

The capacity of the emergency room at Sentara Obici Hospital is about 40,000 patients per year. It has had at least 42,000 per year since 2011, and while that number has risen and fallen a few times, it has risen the past two years — all the way up to 46,000 patient visits last year.

That’s why it’s very good news that the capacity will be increased soon.

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The reasons for the increase are probably obvious. Suffolk is growing by leaps and bounds in terms of number of residents and visitors and the amount of commerce within and through the city. And while many people have gained access to health care in recent years, there remain some people who are unable to visit a regular doctor and use the emergency room as their only option.

Hospital officials thought that the expansion of the Sentara Belleharbour emergency room in North Suffolk, as well as the opening of several urgent care facilities in the area over the past several years, would help decrease the number of people visiting Obici’s emergency room. But that hasn’t happened, and hospital officials have come up with a good plan to accommodate the inevitable future increase.

When this expansion is complete, the emergency department will increase in size to 20,000 square feet. There will be 14 more treatment spaces, including six more vertical care spaces and five more observation rooms. There will be one more behavioral health room, sliding glass doors instead of curtains to increase privacy, and a larger waiting area. Additional medication and supply rooms will also allow workflow to be more efficient.

It will all lead to a significant increase in capacity to 73,000 visits per year.

There will be temporary changes, but the hospital seems to have a good plan in place using signage, volunteers and more to help folks know where to go and how to navigate around the construction.

We applaud this project and anticipate many improvements for those in need of health care in Suffolk in the future.