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The BGH Emergency Department Gets a Facelift

Updates bring efficiency, improved patient care and infection prevention By Abigail Thorpe

Photo Courtesy of Bonner General

For some people in Sandpoint, the Emergency Department might be the only part of Bonner General Hospital you have ever, or will ever, visit. If so, you probably noticed that incredible staff and exceptional care are a hallmark of the BGH Emergency Department, but the facilities have long since started to show their age. Thanks to a grant from the Sunderland Foundation and community support through the Heart Ball, the facilities now have a new lease on life.

Flooring and surfaces over time had seams or cracks where dirt and contamination could collect; cabinets, lighting and paint were dated; and space was limited for the doctors and nurses on shift.

Today, when you drive up to the Emergency Department, you are greeted by a brand new sign that clearly marks the entrance. Walking in the front door, a new guest might not immediately notice the updates, but a returning one will appreciate a space that feels exactly how it should: clean, updated and well thought out.

Fresh cabinets and quartz countertops, new patch and paint work, installation of new sliding doors (where curtains previously closed off rooms), roof restoration, medical gas outlet additions, relocation of the doctor's office and overall improvements to the flow of the department have created a fresh space that boosts efficiency and workflow and increases infection protection.

"The more we can improve the efficiency and workflow, the more patients we can help and the better we can serve the community," explains Curtis Johnson, the director of facilities at BGH.

Denis Simko, an RN in the Emergency Department, remembers when he first came to BGH with his wife from North Carolina. He was offered a position at both BGH and Kootenai Medical Center, but BGH kept him so busy and he was so welcomed by the staff, this is where he stayed. But one thing stood out when he arrived—the hospital, and particularly the Emergency Department—was very dated. "That was 23 years ago, and nothing much has changed in the Emergency Department until now," he says.

Today, there is more space for the increasing nursing staff, with work stations for everyone, and a new office for the Emergency Department doctors. "The improvements allow the team to work in coordination to achieve common goals and independently when focus is needed," explains Johnson.

Temporary rooms that were converted for COVID have been transformed into permanent equipped rooms, and oxygen and suction were added to additional rooms. Because of the renovation, the department was able to grow from eight to 11 fully equipped rooms.

The entire staff was instrumental through the entire process, offering suggestions and guidance on where to place equipment they use on a daily basis and how to improve efficiency, and helping to relocate the entire department to a new location in mere hours to prepare for the remodel.

"The ED staff is simply amazing," says Johnson. "The thoughtfulness given to each decision through the project, while maintaining excellent care in a temporary location, is something that nurses do well.

"There was no question that this project has been high priority for BGH, and with creative brainstorming we determined solutions that seemed to meet the needs of the remodel, as well as the details of how to move and operate the ER in a temporary location." In addition to more efficiency due to space management and updates, one of the biggest benefits of the remodel was improved infection prevention. All wood trim, cork and other porous materials were removed in efforts to prioritize infection prevention, and this thought process is evident throughout the updates.

Updates had been needed for some time, but it was the receipt of a grant from the Sunderland Foundation that spurred the project on. "Their generous donation made this project possible, and we could not be thankful enough," says Johnson.

In addition, the community stepped in to help donate funds through the annual Heart Ball auction, which was held online this year due to COVID, and the funds helped fund a portion of the remodel and purchase new equipment that allows for better patient care. "This year the community has said a big ‘Thank you’ to us at Bonner General and the Emergency Department," reflects Simko. "We have a beautiful, remodeled space and a new feel."

"The community wins when the community gives," adds Johnson. "That is what I love so much about Sandpoint. We live in a place where generosity touches the lives of other people and improves their experience when visiting the Emergency Department at Bonner General Health."

Being in such a small town, the staff at BGH often has connections to their patients. "It is like they are our family too," explains Simko. This close connection is even more evident amongst the Emergency Department team, which is an incredibly close group. "We spend so much time together under very stressful situations. We see each other at our best and at our worst," he adds. "It is like a family."

You'll often find emergency room employees staffing local events like the Festival at Sandpoint, the Chafe 150 and the Long Bridge Swim, and Simko himself works with the ski patrol at Schweitzer.

This close connection to each other and the community carries over to the care you can expect at the BGH Emergency Department. "Bonner General emulates its vision: To be the best place to receive care and the best place to give care," explains Johnson. "Part of that is the amazing community that we live in, and part of that is the tremendous efforts made throughout the organization. On a daily basis, I see staff going above and beyond to care for people in my community, in our community."

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, BGH has provided excellent community resources, testing approximately 14,000 people, caring for numerous COVID patients, and giving out 6,000 vaccines without wasting a single dose. "These numbers are outstanding, and Bonner General is working to give the community the best care available and has earned the trust of many through the process," reflects Johnson.

Nurses and doctors have continued to handle patients with compassion and patience, to the point of testing, screening and caring for patients at the side of their cars during the heat of the summer and the middle of snowstorms.

The new renovations to the Emergency Department are a big benefit to the community, and there are still more to come. In a few weeks, they will be upgrading medical gas supply piping into the ICU to accommodate more usage.

In addition, the front parking lot is scheduled for a remodel during the summer, and expected to take 60 days to complete, divided into two phases. "The new parking lot will be safer for both vehicles and pedestrians," says Johnson.

Updates allow for better care at the Emergency Department not only for the community, but for surrounding areas as well. "Hopefully this new remodel will increase our patients’ experience by providing a clean, updated experience in our patient rooms and will allow us to meet the needs of our local patients and people for the surrounding area," adds Simko.

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