Sheikh Khalifa Medical City opens expanded emergency department

Emergency wards can cater for 83,000 visits to respond to increase in demand for services

The emergency department, initially scheduled to open in January, took 14 months to build.
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ABU DHABI // An emergency department with the capacity to handle 83,000 visits a year has opened at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

The facilities, which replace existing ones, opened on Saturday to meet the growing demand for care, said Dr Glyn Barnett, acting chair of the department.

"The number of patients we have seen over the course of the last two or three years has increased significantly," Dr Barnett said.

"This is a whole new department, not an extension. It has been completely rebuilt, offering more floor space for treatment areas."

The department, initially scheduled to open in January, took 14 months to build.

There are six specialised areas in the department, including a triage and registration area, intake area and a procedure room.

There are also 43 treatment rooms spread across two emergency-department rooms and a critical-care room.

In total, there are 56 clinical-treatment spaces for patients, including two rooms for people who require psychiatric care.

There are plans to set aside two treatment rooms for Emiratis who visit the emergency room between 4pm and midnight. They have not yet been incorporated into the new space.

The facility is more than triple the size of the old department and its layout allows doctors to see patients in a more efficient manner, Dr Barnett said.

"We've implemented an American-based model called split-flow," he said.

"It allows the department to identify the patient's level of illness with more definition and thus it allows us to ensure that the patients, depending on the level of illness they present with, get allocated" to the right department.

One of the main improvements will be a reduction in waiting time for patients, said Margaret Crockford, assistant director of nursing at the hospital.

"The object is not to allow the patients to sit in the waiting room but to get them seen by a physician, which is an expectation of most ER departments," Mrs Crockford said.

Patients will be met by nurses on arrival. From there, they will be assessed and referred to the appropriate treatment room.

"The really very acute, unwell patients, they need to be seen on arrival," Mrs Crockford said.

Patients in a less serious condition should not be kept waiting more than half an hour, she added.

About a year ago, nurses started using iPads to take down details, allowing for more patient interaction.

"What the nurses were doing previously was on a computer," Mrs Crockford said.

"To use this in triage is really difficult. We want the nurses to go to the patients when they first arrive. This way they can talk to them at the same time."

There are eight iPads in use with another 40 on the way.

The old ER department, which is now empty, used to service about 260 patients a day. Things have slowed because of summer and Ramadan and the number is about 150 now, but officials expect it will increase.

There are about 100 nurses and just more than 40 physicians on staff, which Dr Barnett said was sufficient.

With larger rooms and waiting areas and a brighter layout, the department will prove beneficial to patients and staff, Mrs Crockford said.

"The entrance we have is more conducive to patient flow," she said. "There are nicer waiting-room areas.

"The old ER department was very crowded and there was a lot of milling around at the front."

One patient, who was visiting the ER with a minor illness, said the experience was a pleasant surprise.

"I did not wait a long time so this is better than the old one," he said. "It's very beautiful."

A date for the department's official opening is still to be announced.