ELLSWORTH, Maine — The move by the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital emergency department to newly constructed quarters last week has created some opportunities for the use of the former emergency room.
And MCMH has wasted no time in filling that space.
A $10 million project, the F. Eugene Dixon Jr. Emergency Center began treating patients on March 1 and has been busy ever since, according to MCMH spokeswoman Jane Sanderson.
On Monday, the hospital closed the main entrance to the hospital and moved registration for inpatient and outpatient services temporarily into the old emergency department. That move will enable the hospital to remodel the lobby and registration area, Sanderson said Monday.
“The area will be redone to create private registrations rooms,” she said. “When they’re done, patients will be able to register in a room privately. That’s very different than it is now, right out in the open.”
A garbage container blocked the main entrance to the hospital Monday morning, and hospital staff members were on hand to escort patients to the former emergency room entrance that patients will use while the lobby area is under construction. A large banner and signs will direct them to the temporary entrance while the project is under way.
Patients who do not need to register, including those going to doctor appointments in the Medical Office Building, may use Entrances B and C directly into that area.
Registration services will occupy only a portion of the old emergency room, and next week the medical records department will move into the rest of the space while that area is remodeled.
Those projects, which are part of the new emergency center construction, are expected to last four to six months. Hospital officials are discussing how best to use the old emergency room permanently.
“We’ve got some strategic planning to do,” said MCMH interim CEO Jack McCormack.
Among the possible uses for that location are an expanded Mary Dow Oncology Center, a wound clinic, a walk-in center and additional physician office space. The planning is still in the preliminary stages, McCormack said, and the discussion will need to involve the hospital’s board, staff and physicians.
The initial focus has been on the Mary Dow Center. Kevin Sedgwick, the hospital’s chief financial officer, said the space needs at the center have given it a “leg up” in the discussions.
“One of the things we know is that the Mary Dow Oncology Center is one of the very top-drawer things we do here,” Sedgwick said Monday. “The staff makes do with a space that, granted, 10 years ago was adequate, but now does not meet its needs.”
There was initial discussion about expanding the center by knocking out walls, Sedgwick said, but that approach did not seem practical.
In addition, Sedgwick noted, the hospital must comply with new regulations regarding mixing of chemotherapy drugs, which, he said, will be difficult to do in the existing space.
The hospital has some dedicated funds for the center, but Sedgwick stressed that the discussions were still preliminary and there are no estimates on costs to renovate the area for any other potential use.
“There are so many needs,” Sedgwick said, “and we have lots of great ideas.”
The hospital plans to ask its architect to take a preliminary look at the former emergency department space, to see whether it makes sense to even consider moving the Mary Dow Center there. Although the initial response to the idea has been positive, both McCormack and Sedgwick said there need to be discussions about all of the space needs at the hospital among a number of different parties, including physicians.