LACONIA — The Planning Board this week approved the plan of LRGHealthcare' to renovate and expand the emergency department at Lakes Region General Hospital, which with the construction of new space and the renovation of existing space will more than double the size of the ER facility.
In 1986, the emergency department was moved to one of the oldest parts of the building and was last renovated in the 1990s. Mitchell Jean, director of risk management at LRGHealthcare, told the Planning Board, the project will address a number of issues hindering the operation of the department. The inadequate waiting space will be enlarged and storage space added to alleviate congestion in hallways where equipment is kept and, on occasion, patients are housed. The existing department is not on level ground, which hampers the movement of patients and access to the helipad, which requires transporting patients up a steep incline. Treatment rooms are small and separated only by curtains, compromising the privacy of patients and increasing the risk of infection. There are no means of segregating patients suffering from mental illness, who may be held at the hospital while awaiting a bed at New Hampshire Hospital. The nursing station is awkwardly located and the radiology unit, with a CAT scan and MRI, are not convenient to the emergency department.
The project will add some 9,400-square-feet of new space to the 7,900-square-feet that currently houses emergency services. The ground will be leveled to eliminate slopes and inclines. Almost half the existing space will be thoroughly renovated. The department will have two entrances — both with heated pavement, one for ambulances leading directly to the clinical area of the facility and another for patients leading to a triage desk and waiting room.
There will be two trauma rooms near an elevator that will take those patients that must be airlifted to another hospital to the helipad on the upper level. Altogether there will be 20 treatment rooms, each of 300-square-feet, including one designated and equipped for bariatric patients, divided evenly between the new and existing space and served by two nursing stations. Finally, for patients with mental illness there will be four secure holding rooms with dedicated access. The department will have direct access to the operating room, ensuring the timely treatment of trauma patients requiring immediate surgery.
As part of the project the radiology unit housing scanning equipment will be relocated to 2,700-square-feet of newly built space adjacent to the emergency department. The proximity of the radiology unit will support the partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital to diagnose and treat patients with strokes by means of video conferencing and image sharing technology.
Along with the construction and renovation at the hospital, a parking lot with 72 spaces will built at the corner of Highland Street and Fairview Street, an issue of concern to residents of Fairview Street, who are regularly disturbed by the lights and noise of personnel coming and going with the three shift changes at the hospital. One gentleman, who asked not to be identified, said, "this will be a killer for us. We don't get any sleep."
Jean offered to erect a six-foot high fence and plant arbor vitae along the property line to shield the abutting properties from the lights and noise. City Councilor David Bownes, also a member of the Planning Board, told Jean the abutters "have listened to you and want you to listen to them (the hospital) and all be good neighbors." Jean assured the board that LRGH would do all it could to minimize the impact of the parking lot on neighboring properties.
Jean said that the cost of construction was estimated at approximately $13 million and the total cost of the project, including designing, engineering, equipping and furnishing the new emergency and radiology departments would by about $21.7 million. He expected renovation and construction to begin in August and to be completed in two years.
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