Emergency center on fast track
July 20, 2005
Jacqueline Mah
Staff Writer

Shady Grove Adventist Hospital executives are working with county officials to expedite the building permitting process for a new emergency center in Germantown, and hope to have the necessary approvals by next month.

Despite moves to halt the issuance of building permits amid controversy over the integrity of the county's planning and permitting process, officials do not expect the emergency facility to be held up.

The goal is to open the center by early next year.

Shady Grove executives met with county officials in the building permitting department last month to discuss how to expedite the normal 6-8 week permit process.

The hospital submitted its building designs for review on July 6 and hopes to have the needed permits in August, said Shady Grove Vice President Michael Franklin. Permitting officials think that timetable could work.

"I think we made a commitment to work as fast as we can on that project," said Michael Pokorny, senior permitting services specialist. "From the preliminary drawing that we saw, the turnaround time [for the] permit in hand by August is certainly feasible."

The building is already permitted as an office space but not as an emergency medical facility, which has more stringent regulations, said Reginald Jetter, division chief of the Department of Permitting Services.

The facility is the culmination of nearly two years of efforts by Adventist Health Care officials, local leaders and state representatives and residents to expand health care services in the upcounty. It will serve 35,000-40,000 visits per year, Franklin said.

In the current design, the facility has 21 patient treatment rooms; an assortment of specialized rooms for specific needs -- such as pediatric care, psychiatric and mental health, advanced life support and resuscitation and sexual assault; a basic procedure room for stitches and casts; a laboratory diagnostic testing for blood; and radiology services, he said.

It will have all of the services that a typical hospital emergency department would have, Franklin said. The only difference is that patients will not stay overnight.

The emergency facility will occupy a one-floor, 27,000-square-foot building located behind a three-story brick office building on Route 118.

Hospital officials are expecting to serve patients with a wide variety of medical needs, from broken bones to acute, life-threatening situations, Franklin said.

Because of the immediate triage services available through emergency teams on site and in ambulances, Franklin said he expects the more serious patients will be sent to the main hospital, in Rockville. However, he said, "We still need to be prepared for whatever walks through the door."

Adventist officials are also planning to work with the State Highway Administration to create a cut-through on Route 118, to allow southbound traffic to turn left into the facility, instead of having to make a U-turn at Middlebrook Road, Franklin said.

Officials at Artery Development, which owns parts of the Germantown Town Center, have offered to pay for part of the cost of the cut-through, since it would enable shopping center customers to turn left onto Route 118 between Middlebrook Road and Pinnacle Drive, he said.

Hospital officials are currently hiring doctors and will soon begin hiring nurses for the facility. Some of the staff will be brought up from the main hospital, Franklin said.

Officials plan on rotating the Germantown emergency facility's staff through the main hospital periodically, he said.

"Looking at the [Germantown facility's] design and types of patients received, it wouldn't [see] the type of volume received at Shady Grove or the acuity here," he said. "But to maintain the nurses proficiency" the hospital will rotate the staff through the main hospital to "make sure we keep their skills up where they need to be."