CCMH Plans to Use $1 Million Grant for ER Renovation

The Endeavor News covers CCMH grant

Endeavor News

Charles Cole Memorial Hospital officials will address what they consider to be the weakest component of their health care service with a complete renovation of the hospital’s emergency department.

While the hospital board has not yet made it official, a $1 million state grant will be used almost exclusively on upgrades to the ER. Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ed Pitchford said the administration will recommend that focus to the board. He also noted that a portion of the funds will be used to address shortcomings in the facility’s outdated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

On Thursday, Potter County’s Board of Commissioners agreed to be the agency through which the grant funds will be funneled— a public entity must be an applicant for the grant, which is being awarded through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).

Rehabilitating the emergency room will be the first phase in a planned $4 million project that has been in the works for several years. Hospital officials had hoped to be awarded $2 million and use half of that money to upgrade the facility’s operating room as well, but the state budget shortfall reduced drastically the number of projects funded through the RACP.

Pitchford explained that the initial phase of the project would focus on the emergency services because “it has the greatest need” for improvement.

While patient surveys have scored the hospital’s in-patient services consistently in the top 10 percent of the country, its emergency services have not done so well.

“We have high expectations,” Pitchford told commissioners. “… and the emergency services do not meet our standards of excellence. In that area, we’re not where we want to be and we are not going to get there without (renovating and upgrading the ER).”

In addition to being “not very appealing,” Pitchford said the current ER at Cole Memorial doesn’t provide adequate patient privacy or safety because emergency patients are sometimes housed three to a room.

In 2010, CCMH’s emergency room handled more than 9,000 visits, an average of roughly 25 patients per day. With an aging population and the growing gas industry in the area, that number is expected to continue to climb.

Pitchford noted that a redesign of the ER would put the hospital in a position to handle the growth. The renovation will include private treatment and exam rooms, dedicated registration and reception areas, separate walk-in and ambulance entrances, an expanded waiting room for visitors and additional staff support space.

“This project will improve privacy and comfort for our patients,” said Waldemar Szczupak, medical director of Cole’s emergency department. “While we are a small, rural hospital, these advancements will enhance patient care to a level comparable with larger health care centers.”

Pitchford explained that the goal of the larger project is to improve the hospital’s services in all departments and at all levels.

“We want to be world class,” Pitchford said. “This renovation will be a significant milestone for us as we continue to (be) a modern and relevant health system in northcentral Pennsylvania.”

The state funds have not yet been released and there is no timetable for the start of the project. Cole, a designated Critical Access Hospital, serves 46,000 residents in its primary and secondary service areas, encompassing Potter, McKean, Tioga, and Cameron counties in Pennsylvania and portions of New York’s southern tier. With 733 employees, CCMH is Potter County’s largest employer.

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