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Huntington Hospital expands emergency services

The first phase of the $80-million project at the Pasadena facility is to open in March.

November 13, 2011|By Tiffany Kelly, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Asbasia Mikhail talks with patient Maria Misquez in the hospitals emergency department.
Dr. Asbasia Mikhail talks with patient Maria Misquez in the hospitals emergency… (Tim Berger, Pasadena Sun )

Huntington Hospital is more than halfway done with an expansion of its emergency department as it seeks to keep pace with rising demand for emergency room services.

The Pasadena hospital's emergency and trauma center has 21 beds. The new center will add 22,000 square feet and contain 50 beds.

The $80-million expansion was fueled by several factors that have increased activity at Huntington's emergency room.

The first came in 2002, when Pasadena's St. Luke Medical Center closed, making Huntington the hub for 90% of 911 calls in the area.

"When St. Luke's closed, our volume went up 10 [%] to 20%," said Jeanette Abundis, executive director for emergency services at Huntington. "It's one of the reasons for the expansion."

Other factors include cutbacks to government-funded clinics and increased reliance on emergency rooms by uninsured and underinsured people who otherwise could not afford medical care.

Abundis said wait times in the emergency room can be long, especially during peak hours between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. Some patients decide to leave before their names are called.

"We're constantly shuffling and rotating patients because we have capacity issues," Abundis said. "Then we have customer service issues."

Emergency patients at Huntington are often treated in beds and chairs in the hallways of the emergency department, she said.

Expanding the emergency room was just part of the hospital's response to the growing demand. In 2010 the hospital, the Huntington Medical Foundation and the city of Pasadena created the Pasadena Community Urgent Care Center on Del Mar Boulevard, with the intention of reducing reliance on the emergency room for routine medical matters.

Dr. Asbasia Mikhail, chairwoman of the emergency medical section at Huntington, said the hospital plans a partial opening of the new facilities in March, with about 30 beds. When the work is complete in 2013, Mikhail anticipates serving 100,000 patients a year, compared with 65,000 now.

The new emergency room will be part of an 86,000-square-foot, four-story addition to the main hospital building that is funded almost entirely by 4,200 private donations.

Mikhail said it was no surprise that people wanted to improve the hospital.

"The community around Huntington looks at Huntington as their community hospital," she said. "People feel like it's their hospital and the place to go when you get sick."

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