TLC at the ER

Two area hospitals revamp their emergency rooms, making visits less stressful

Sitting in a hospital waiting room can be a nerve-racking and seemingly endless experience. But what if you could avoid this unpleasant ordeal altogether? At two Westchester County hospitals, you can.

Last November, Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow unveiled its brand-new emergency room, which — at 18,000 square feet — is nearly three times larger than the old one. “It’s not so sleepy in Sleepy Hollow,” says Dr. Emil Nigro, director of emergency services, who explains that about 23,000 people come through the doors of the ER every year. He adds that two-thirds of all the patients admitted to the hospital are first evaluated in the emergency department. “That’s a rather high number for a community hospital,” he says. “The physical structure of the old ER was just too small.”

The $10 million makeover features a host of amenities, including five child-friendly rooms with an adjacent playroom; a 24-hour radiology suite with a 64-slice CT scanner; and a hospitality service that provides patients with emotional support and help with simple tasks. A newly constructed permanent isolation and decontamination unit is completely separate from the rest of the hospital, which is “a big advantage. Patients now can be decontaminated and moved into the rest of the ER more easily,” says Dr. Nigro.

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But for most people, entering the ER and being immediately escorted into one of 32 private rooms — where they are then evaluated and treated — is the most obvious improvement. Outfitted with sliding glass doors and curtains, each room has a television, telephone, and chairs for family members. “We wanted to do right by the patients, and give the staff the resources they need,” says Dr. Nigro of the new setup.

Similarly, the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor implemented a “no-wait” emergency department two years ago; administrators say the move has decreased patient waiting time by 60 percent. Last April, the center’s new ER entrance opened. Attractively decorated with wood floors and desert hues, the area also features two private triage rooms, where a registered nurse examines patients within moments of their arrival.


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