Friday December 7, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- When Brattleboro Memorial Hospital officials announced their $7.5 million expansion of the emergency department, they said the 16-month project was going to require a lot of coordination and planning.

The hospital's emergency department operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there is no way to suspend operations while the construction crews go about their work.

So hospital staff let out a great sigh of relief last week as the hospital announced the opening of the new magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, department.

It is the first step in the long and complicated process of moving and accommodating the various affected hospital services while construction is going on.

"We are excited about the emergency department renovation and expansion," said Ellen Smith, BMH director of development and community relations. "The relocation and upgrade of the MRI is the first step in this 14- to 16-month project."

The former MRI was housed in a temporary trailer, outside the emergency department entrance.

One of the first projects in the emergency department expansion included taking away that trailer so work could begin on the hospital building.

The new MRI is now in its permanent location on the ground floor of the Richards Building.

Over the past 30 years the number of patients visiting the BMH emergency department has more than doubled.

The project includes completely renovating 8,500 square feet in the emergency department and adding about 2,500 square feet to the hospital's existing footprint.

With the MRI now in its new suite, workers are plowing ahead on the entrance of the hospital.

Crews are racing against the oncoming cold weather and snowfall and trying to get as much of the foundation work done as possible.

The front entrance is closed and all patients and visitors are being admitted through the Richards Building on the opposite side of the

BMH campus. The old entrance is expected to be closed until the summer of 2013, and the entire project will extend into the spring of 2014.

Not only is the MRI in a new location, but BMH is also celebrating that fact that the equipment has been upgraded and the hospital can now offer faster and more accurate MRI readings.

"The new location provides a quieter, more welcoming environment of care for patients," said BMH Director of the Radiology and Cardiology Department, Marcy Rushford. "The upgraded equipment includes faster, quieter magnet with greater diagnostic capabilities than we had previously, and the improved image quality will ensure quality diagnostic results."

The hospital has set up an informational page about the project on its website.

Check www.bmhed.org and look for the link to the ED expansion project.