Sen. Lindsey Graham visits Prisma Health expansion in Oconee Co.

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OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham attended and delivered remarks at an event commemorating the expansion of the Emergency Department at Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital.

The $13 million expansion will more than double the current available space, increasing capacity and improving patient experience, according to Prisma Health.

“Expanding our emergency department who in Oconee, is a critical part of serving the community, and we are pleased to more than double our space and implement state-of-the-art technologies that will help to treat patients efficiently and improve our overall outcomes,” said Clarence Sevillian, Chief Operating Officer with Prisma Health.

Hospital leaders said the Oconee County area is growing, and right now many patients who come into the ED, spend a portion of their visit in the hallway.

“One and five patients never make it until a room. Clearly half of our patients spend a portion of their visit in the hallway. So, this expansion is not for me, it’s not for the staff, it’s for you. It’s for the community,” said Dr. Bill Chiles, Director of Emergency Services at Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital.

The emergency department will expand from around 8,400 square feet to 21,500 square feet.

“Our existing emergency department is only about 8,500 square feet and we see about 40,000 patients a year in that space. It’s just very small. We have to care for a lot of patients in the hallway. We don’t even have room for supplies and just the things we need to do our work. So we’re going to be adding 13,500 square feet to the existing emergency department. So, more than doubling the size of the emergency department,” said Hunter Kome, CEO at Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital.

The expansion will allow the hospital to see up to 55,000 patients per year.

“In terms of it being a pivot time, you mentioned the growth of the area. COVID has caused people to move to rural areas, so this area is growing even more quickly,” Kome said. “We started the original COVID surge a year ago with a 12-bed intensive care unit and seven ventilators. Today, we’ve got 22 people in intensive care and many of those are on ventilators. So, our hospital has grown very significantly over the past couple of years during this COVID surge and the emergency department is the front door of all of that. So, we’ve got to have more capacity.”

The increase in square footage, will include the following:

  • 26 new individual treatment rooms, ensuring patient privacy and confidentiality
  • Universal rooms that can be utilized to treat a variety of medical needs
  • Advanced technology and equipment
  • New entrance, enhanced Triage and Care Initiation to move patients through the process more quickly, and a Fast Track for patients with less serious ailments
  • Expanded support areas, including a larger nurses’ station, physician work area and storage space to streamline work processes

“The existing emergency department will become a fast track unit. So, we’ll have essentially, an ED within an ED. Sort of a minor care ED, and then the new emergency department will handle the more acute cases and the cases coming in by ambulance. Both of those areas will be fully staffed with both doctors and nurses and all the other team members will need,” Kome said.

Senator Graham said he believes the expansion will attract more people to the area.

“So I was born here they tell me. I don’t remember it, but having lived in this area all my life, this is a welcome addition to the community that’s growing. And what does it matter? The better healthcare that you can provide your citizens, the more likely people will come and move into the community. If you’re locating a business or if you’re looking for a place to do business, you look at the school system, you look at the quality of life, and you look at healthcare. So, by expanding the emergency room, this is going to be a more attractive place to local,” Graham said. “This will pay dividends not only to people here today, but make Oconee County and the Seneca area a more attractive place to live.”

Leaders with the Oconee Memorial Hospital Foundation said Prisma Health team members, residents, and businesses in the area, have raised more than $700,000 towards their $1 million goal.

Kome said construction will begin very soon, and will happen in three phases over 21 months.

“It’s three phases over about 21 months, and the first phase is to expand parking because the building is going to go over some of the parking that existing now,” Kome said.

Kome said the construction will not interrupt the current operation.

The project is expected to be complete in 2023.

Prisma Health leaders and team members will gather with community members, philanthropic partners and elected officials for the groundbreaking.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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