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St. Luke's hospital to open new $37.5 million project in Duluth

The expansion improves patient privacy and staff workflow and increases space.

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Dr. Scott Mikesell (third from left) and Dr. Amery Robinson (fourth from left) use a large pair of scissors for a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Aug. 20, to celebrate St. Luke's new emergency department and cardiac lab. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

St. Luke's hospital will open its new emergency department and cardiac lab in Duluth on Tuesday — a project that took 17 months and a $37.5 million investment to complete.

The new 60,000-square-foot emergency department and cath lab at 1015 E. First St. boasts new technology, increased patient privacy and better workflow, allowing quicker patient transport throughout the building and improving patient experiences. The 70,000-square-foot exterior space includes a parking ramp for emergency department patients, heated ambulance garage and a helistop, ensuring patients can quickly enter the emergency department and receive needed care.

"It was all (about) focusing our care on the patient. That seems like a funny thing to say, but (we're) taking advantage of the years of experience that we gain and translating that into 'how can we provide care that's better,'" Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Van Deelen said during a news conference Thursday.

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Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Van Deelen speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Aug. 20, to celebrate St. Luke's new emergency department and cardiac lab. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

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Four sets of locked doors must be cleared to enter the emergency room. The department's front waiting room is small — meant to ensure people move into the department quickly. Once in the department, the first set of rooms include two rapid assessment rooms, where a patient's need level is determined before shuttling them to the emergency department or releasing them.

In total, there are 37 exam rooms, 27 of which are general treatment rooms, for anything from a sprain to a heart attack.

There are four trauma rooms for critical patients — which can double in capacity in the chance of a mass disaster — located near the ambulance doors to ensure speedy care. A decontamination room is also located near the doors, in the case of a chemical disaster like one that could occur in one of the region's many industrial sites, said Mike Boeselager, vice president of support services for the hospital.

Additionally, a four-bed behavior health suite is tucked in a secluded area and is needed because "we know that mental health care is in crisis in our region," Van Deelen said.

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An exam room designed specifically for care of sexual assault patients was built in a quiet, secluded corner of St. Luke's new emergency department. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

In one corner of the emergency department, four observation rooms, a bereavement room and a room for sexual assault patients sit quietly. They're tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the emergency department, Boeselager said.

Patient privacy was a main goal of the project. For example, each room comes with curtains, and the room for patients who have experienced assault has its own bathroom.

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Running between the rooms are wide, brightly lit corridors — making patient transportation quick between an ambulance and a room. These wide hallways will make staff workflow smoother and social distancing easier, Van Deelen said.

"In this current pandemic, this space will provide our patients a much safer environment to seek the care they need," he said.

The new space is triple the size of the old emergency department, and is even bigger than what the space was in the 1990s.

This was designed around security, privacy and care," Van Deelen said. "It's large, but it's been designed for much larger events."

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St. Luke's President and CEO Kevin Nokels speaks Thursday, Aug. 20, during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the hospital's new emergency department and cardiac lab. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

"When you think back to where we were to where we are now — how health care has evolved, how emergency care, in particular, has evolved — you'll see that here today," St. Luke's President and CEO Kevin Nokels said during a news conference.

Emergency room staff in and out of St. Luke's gave input on the project, influencing the design and the location of supplies.

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Although the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in nearly all aspects of the health care industry, the pandemic didn't cause any interruptions in the project, Boeselager said.

They had a few challenges with their supply chain, but "we're fortunate we have really good partners and they were resourceful," he said.

One floor below the emergency department is the cardiac cath lab. Only part of it is ready to open Tuesday, with the remaining area opening Sept. 15.

The cardiac space's close location to the emergency department is important, as minutes are crucial when caring for patients with cardiac problems, St. Luke's leaders say.

The new cardiac space houses a cardiac rehab gym that, when complete, will include a mural and clouds hanging from the ceiling, as well as testing rooms, testing waiting rooms, several high-tech surgical rooms and a large supply storage room.

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St. Luke's director of diagnostic imaging, Scott Studden, shares information about a new CT scanner during a tour Thursday, Aug. 20, at St. Luke's new emergency department and cardiac lab. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

Two new CT machines will also be included in the space, bringing the number of CT machines on St. Luke's Duluth campus to three, said St. Luke's director of diagnostic imaging Scott Studden.

This opening is only the first phase of a multiphase project to expand and reconstruct St. Luke's campus, Boeselager said. Next, the hospital plans to tackle a new building next to the finished project.

This article was updated at 11:33 p.m. on Aug. 20 to correct the spelling of Mike Boeselager's name. It was originally posted at 5:17 p.m.

Related Topics: HEALTHCAREHEALTHDULUTH
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