Contractors broke ground in September 2018 to add 3,000 square feet of floor space to the department, including three private patient rooms, a confidential admitting area, a spacious waiting room, and separate entrances for ambulances and pedestrians.

“It’s finally starting to feel real,” said Mercy Mt. Shasta RN Donna Burns about the hospital’s highly anticipated $8 million emergency department expansion project – the first phase of which should be complete in April.

Contractors broke ground in September 2018 to add 3,000 square feet of floor space to the department, including three private patient rooms, a confidential admitting area, a spacious waiting room, and separate entrances for ambulances and pedestrians.

Mercy Mt. Shasta was built in 1976, explained the hospital’s Director of Ancillary Services, Joyce Zwanziger, and the ED hadn’t been renovated since the 1980s. The community had outgrown the hospital’s old 2,000 square foot, eight-bed department, which lacked in patient privacy, staff safety and overall efficiency. Every day, an average of 27 patients are seen in the ED, Zwanziger said and between July 2018 and June 2019, the ED had 9,000 visits, 340 of which were trauma cases.

No one understood the inadequacies of the ED better than Burns, who has been a nurse at Mercy for more than 40 years. When Dignity Health’s (now CommonSpirit Health’s) CEO Lloyd Dean visited the hospital in April 2016, Burns sat him down in the chair that is currently used for consultations when people are admitted to the emergency room.

She asked Dean if he’d feel comfortable discussing whatever ailment brought him there in such an open environment.

Before he left Mount Shasta, Dean had committed $5 million to the project, Zwanziger said.

“I was just in the right spot at the right time,” said Burns, who looks forward to working in the new, state of the art ED she’s been envisioning for decades.

The project was designed with nurses and physicians in mind, said Zwanziger. For example, nurses worked with the architect to design the head walls in the trauma bays, showing them exactly where things like the computers, electrical plugs, suction, and medical gasses should be located.

The centralized nurses station will be the hub of action, and staff and patients will be protected in an area that’s separate from the waiting area.

The new 420 square foot waiting room will include dedicated restrooms, new vending machines and a water bottle filling station. Other additions include several handicap-accessible bathrooms – one with a shower – a physician sleeping room, a staff lounge and a “triage room,” where medical screenings can be performed in private.

Once the expansion is complete, the project’s second phase will begin, said Zwanziger. Over the course of a year, the ED’s old patient rooms will be renovated in shifts to include 11 total beds.

“There will still be one patient room with three beds, but the beds will be separated by glass walls, not curtains, like they are now,” said Zwanziger, who called the project the most exciting she’s been involved in during her 17 years at Mercy.

Among the state of the art touches are heated rain gutters to prevent the formation of icicles, new medical equipment and ER trauma lights, and an improved drive through area that’s wide enough for two ambulances and a car.

The two entrances – one for traumas coming in via ambulance and another for walk-ins – will assure patient safety and privacy, Zwanziger said.

The staff has been patient during construction. Access to the emergency room was temporarily relocated to the front entrance and ambulances have been accessing the ED through the loading dock area at the back of the hospital, she said.

“We are excited to provide new spaces that offer privacy, updated equipment and efficiencies for our staff to better serve our community,” said Mercy’s President Rodger Page. “We continue to appreciate your patience as we have undertaken this renovation and we look forward to providing continued great care in the years to come.”

Mercy Mt. Shasta serves as a base station for the local ambulance service and is designated a Level III trauma center – the only Level III trauma center between Medford, Oregon and Redding.

Project funding

To help fund the project, Mercy Foundation North committed to raise a minimum of $1.2 million, and it’s about halfway to that goal, said the foundation’s development officer, Alisa Johnson.

“Significant contributions” have come from the Mercy Mt. Shasta Auxiliary, Valley Emergency Physicians (the hospital’s ED physician group), Mechanics Bank, Mt. Shasta Rotary, the Estate of Polly Postushenko, Tri Counties Bank, Gifford Construction and the Cross Family.

In addition, the hospital’s employees have contributed more than $100,000 toward the project, Johnson said.

CommonSpirit Health’s investment in the hospital was imperative to the project’s completion, Zwanziger said. The expansion couldn’t have been accomplished on Mercy Mt. Shasta’s profits alone, she added.

“That’s the benefit of being part of a larger system that’s able to invest in our community,” said Zwanziger. “This project is truly a community effort for a community hospital.”