How important is Erie County Medical Center’s trauma and emergency department to Western New York?
In 2018, the department treated more than 70,000 patients, and more than 7,400 of those were transferred from other hospitals. The Grider Street facility is the only Level I adult trauma and emergency department in the eight-county region, the go-to place for numerous types of serious injuries and afflictions.
The ER and trauma area will double in size thanks to a $55 million modernization project now underway. The new building will be more than just an aesthetic improvement – it will save lives.
The department, when it was created in 1978, was built to serve 45,000 patients a year, and to house records on paper rather than computers. Its cramped quarters often include patients on stretchers lining the hallway, which causes privacy problems.
The reconstructed department will double the size of the current 26,000-square-foot facility, with a more efficient layout.
The expansion plan, so sorely needed and so obviously in the public interest, was held up by political squabbling over the funding a few years ago. The logjam was broken in time to ensure the project was not deflated like a political football.
So many depend on ECMC for so much. As a Level 1 trauma center it treats severe injuries from car and motorcycle crashes, major burns and gunshot wounds.
More than 10,000 patients a year are sent to the hospital’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, the only one of its kind in the region.
Then there is drug treatment. The ER department receives the majority of opioid overdose patients in the region, and specializes in substance abuse detoxification. Opioid-related visits to ECMC’s emergency room, including users of prescription painkillers and heroin, increased by 125 percent from 2009 to 2016.
ECMC, which started as a city sanitarium for treating tuberculosis patients early in the 20th century, is paid millions of dollars each year to treat the poor and uninsured, with funding from Erie County and the federal government.
Among the improvements, the radiology department will be adjacent to the trauma rooms, closer than it is now.
“That’s going to save time, which will obviously save lives,” Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., ECMC Corp.’s president and CEO, told The News.
The ramp that ambulances must drive up to reach the emergency department will be no more. There’s always been a concern that the ramp could cause backups in the event of a mass casualty incident. The new entrance will be on ground level, with a covered ambulance bay that can hold up to 15 ambulances.
The new department will be known as the KeyBank Trauma and Emergency Department, thanks to a $2.5 million donation by the bank, in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation.
Five other donors, the Russell J. Salvatore Foundation, John R. Oishei Foundation, Seneca Diabetes Foundation, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and Pegula Sports and Entertainment/Buffalo Bills Foundation each contributed $1 million toward the $55 million project.
A bigger, better ER and trauma department is needed to meet rising demand for emergency services, driven by a growing elderly population and a shortage of primary care doctors.
Emergency department visits nationwide increased from 90.5 million in 1994 to 145.6 million in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Our eight-county region depends on ECMC, particularly for emergency and trauma services. It’s gratifying to know that in another year we’ll have the ER facility suited for the 21st century.