By Bill Kirk
METHUEN — While it's never good to need a trip to the ER, anyone lucky — or unlucky — enough to get hurt next week will at least have a new emergency room to go to.
Holy Family Hospital yesterday held a ribbon-cutting celebration for its shiny, new, 24,000-square-foot, $21 million emergency center, scheduled to be open for business starting Aug. 4.
Yesterday's event featured speeches from a variety of dignitaries, including Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who gave an opening prayer, and ER chief Dr. Steven Crespo, Holy Family Board of Directors Chairman Gerry Mulligan, hospital President Lester Schindel and Steward Health Care CEO Ralph de la Torre.
Also in attendance were local and state politicians along with TV celebrity Mary Richardson, former co-anchor of Chronicle, who now serves as the community liaison for Steward Health Care, the corporate owners of Holy Family and eight other hospitals throughout Massachusetts. As the chain grows, it should have 12 hospitals under its wing by next year, Schindel said.
But the real stars were inside the building, including a new $1 million CT scan machine, a high-speed digital X-ray lab, 32 private treatment rooms, a double-trauma room, a double cardiac bay and a lounge for EMS workers dropping off patients.
Throughout the building, technology is on display, from scrolling screens that are linked to patients' bedside call-buttons to computer monitors in every room and at every station with access to patients' digital records.
A TV screen near the ambulance entrance will tell EMS workers where to take their patients, and will list the names of the attending nurses and physicians on the case.
During a tour of the facility yesterday, hospital president Schindel pointed out that the ER will now be able to serve as many as 54,000 patients a year, up from 41,000 in the old ER, which was built in the 1970s to handle 25,000 patients.
"This is a state-of-the-art facility," Schindel said, as he toured the building with Crespo and Gregg Christie, director of emergency services.
"We had a 1970s emergency department and we had a 2011 need," Christie added.
The new wing of the hospital also meant that more people were needed to staff it, leading to 25 new hires, from security guards to physicians, Schindel said.
"This has been an economic boon for the city," he said. "Not just for construction, but also for employees hired full-time."
The old ER may soon become a satellite center for the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.
As for Lawrence General Hospital, just 2.5 miles away, competition for patients shouldn't be an issue, the executives said yesterday.
While both hospitals serve similar geographies, LGH focuses more heavily on residents of Lawrence while Holy Family draws patients from Southern New Hampshire as well as the Merrimack Valley communities.
"Our goal is to keep more patients locally," Crespo said.
"Our goal is world-class care in your neighborhood hospital," he said.
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