At 7 a.m. Wednesday, the new sliding glass doors to the WellSpan York Hospital Emergency Department will open to the public for emergency care.

With a new rapid unit, 16 private rooms in two separate pods and three dedicated pediatric emergency care rooms, the 53,000-square-foot space is ready for patients in most of its areas. The entire project is expected to be completed in early 2017.

"I think the ability to match the facility abilities with our clinical abilities is amazing," said Dr. David Vega, medical director of the emergency department at York Hospital. "We're more efficient. We're safer and we have increased privacy for our patients."

Because WellSpan York Hospital is a designated Level 1 Regional Resource Trauma Center, the emergency department sees many patients who need immediate treatment. Last year, the emergency department treated 2,127 trauma patients, according to hospital officials.

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Vega said some patients who came to the emergency department were being treated in the hallways on beds.

"It's such a wrong thing for patients to have to sit in the hallways," he said. "Now we have private rooms for every patient. We'll have more timely care to all our patients."

The $50 million project to expand and improve the emergency department began in August 2014. Vega said the differences start as soon as people walk through the door.

"We made it a warmer and welcoming environment," he said. "We want to make people comfortable and have as little wait as possible."

Entrance: Gray-blue couches with frosted glass partitions fill the waiting area. Vega said the glass was put there to create more privacy for patients from the very beginning of their time in the emergency department.

"It's not big rows of linear chairs anymore," he said. "It makes it more comfortable for people who may be waiting for their family members."

Patients' first clinical encounter happens as soon as they walk in the doors, too. A quick-sort nurse will assess patients and determine if they have to be seen in one of the pods for a true emergency or if they can go through the rapid unit. Vega said this will help cut down on patient wait times and will help patients get the treatment they need.

Patient rooms: Once construction is finished, two pods with 16 beds each will be available in the emergency department. One pod will be opened Wednesday. Both pods are set up with a hallway surrounding the rooms for patient transportation.

Glass doors allow access from the rooms to the middle of the pods, where 26 stations are set up for nurses, doctors and clinicians to keep track of data. Large monitors are set up in the clinician area so vital signs and other relevant information can be displayed to keep people up to date. Vega said there is no personal information shared on these screens so the hospital can stay in compliance with HIPAA laws. The screens will use initials or other small ways to identify patients.

Vega said there are three resuscitation rooms in each pod equipped with a boom that will allow doctors to attach different devices for treatment. This will allow doctors to bring necessary equipment into the rooms to help ease patients' care. Each room has a lift to help nurses and clinicians move patients.Vega said it'll help prevent back injuries for those people.

Pediatrics: Three new pediatric rooms are at the back of the first pod. The rooms are equipped with smaller tools for the sickest pediatric patients, Vega said. The rooms are also decorated differently than the rest of the emergency department to make it more comfortable for the child. Those three rooms are slightly bigger than the other rooms to fit families in there, he added.

"This isn't something unique to WellSpan, but it's something new for us," Vega said.

Rapid treatment: New to the emergency department is a rapid treatment unit. Less severe ailments like broken bones will be sent through the area to save space in the emergency room for trauma patients.

The rapid treatment unit has 10 private rooms. It also has a separate area for patients waiting for test results so the private rooms can be available for other patients. The waiting area is equipped with electric recliners, television sets and storage areas with a seating area for family.

The area also has dedicated lab and imaging facilities with state-of-the-art technology, Vega said. The X-ray machines are digital, he said, helping to shorten the amount of time patients are waiting.

"It's available right to doctors to see," Vega said. "It's a great tool for the doctors. Any doctor with access to the system has access to this information, too."

There are also dedicated areas for orthopedic, eye and dental emergencies in the rapid care area. Vega said there are a surprising amount of dental emergencies that come to York Hospital. He said this isn't a replacement for regular dental cleanings, though.

"If they knock out a tooth or something like that, we can help until they can see their regular dentist," he said.

What's next: WellSpan York Hospital isn't done yet, either. The group has plans for a behavioral health unit with six private rooms, two interview rooms and two quiet rooms. There will also be a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) suite, a private room with forensic exam capabilities. There are also plans for an expanded emergency transitional care unit with 22 rooms, including six for chest pain observation.

"When we started this project 18 months ago, we had a vision for a new, modern emergency department that would make us more efficient but would also improve the overall experience for our patients and their families," said Keith Noll, senior vice president, WellSpan Health, and president of WellSpan York Hospital, in a Tuesday news release. "With the opening of this latest phase, that vision is starting to take shape."

For more information on the project or for updates on the new emergency department, visit

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at

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