Published: Sep 14, 2022 1:11:38 AM
Updated: Sep 14, 2022 1:11:08 AM
LEBANON — Nine new rooms in the emergency department of Lebanon’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center will open to patients on Thursday, according to a news release.
Expected to take more than 16 months to build and cost a total of $9.9 million, the project is intended to better address the needs of behavioral and senior citizens in the Upper Valley.
Dr. Christine Finn, psychiatrist and director of DHMC’s Emergency Psychiatric Services, said in a release: “When a patient has to wait in her ED, we can now start treatment immediately.”
The department now has a total of 11 rooms available for behavioral health, with safety features to increase visibility and reduce the risk of self-harm. Six of the new rooms have windows. This is an important feature for those who stay in the department for more than a few hours and for seniors where natural light helps minimize episodes of increased confusion known as ‘sunsets’.
The change was made because access to mental health beds continues to be a challenge for hospitals and patients in New Hampshire, Vermont, and across the country. Patients with mental health crises often spend days or weeks in emergency departments without treatment. Forty-two adults and 19 children were waiting for mental health beds in New Hampshire on Monday, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Modifications to the emergency department will also include treatment rooms with negative pressure for high-threat infections. group/therapy activity room; mass decontamination room and single decontamination room.
The new space is intended to increase safety, increase privacy for communicating with attorneys and the state court system, and create space for social activities for children and young people.
By opening a new behavioral health bed, DHMC will be able to reopen the geriatric ward in the emergency department.
In March 2021, DH announced in a news release that DHMC had become the nation’s only rural Level 1 geriatric emergency department, designated through the American College of Emergency Physicians. This designation demonstrates that DHMC upholds best practices for working with older adults, provides multidisciplinary older adult education, and ensures that appropriate equipment and supplies are available.
Last month, Windsor’s Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, a member of the DH System, announced it was accredited as a Level 2 geriatric emergency department. Move the department to other settings and also prioritize education in geriatrics.
“We are proud that our hospital is able to provide the best care for our elderly patients,” said Lee Morissette, Mt. Ascutney’s Chief Physician Assistant in the Emergency Department, in a news release last month.
DH first announced plans for a geriatric emergency department program in 2019 through a three-year, $4.5 million research collaboration with the West Health Institute, a California-based applied medical research organization.
DH has since announced that Mount Ascutney, Lebanon’s Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, Randolph’s Gifford Medical Center, and Claremont’s Valley Regional Hospital will receive accreditation as geriatric emergency departments. Aimed at reducing hospital admissions and readmissions and improving the diagnosis and treatment of patients with delirium and dementia, the project involves a small hospital clinician using telemedicine technology to monitor his DHMC. It included being able to consult with a geriatrician.
Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3213.