The first phase of the expansion of University Hospital and Clinics’ emergency department is expected to be finished by March, with additional renovations completed by August, hospital officials say.

The $4 million project involves expanding the existing emergency department from 1,800 square feet to 8,000 square feet, an overhaul designed to improve efficiency and offer patients more privacy.

“We’re seeing 40,000 people annually in a very small space,” said Daryl Cetnar, community relations director for Lafayette General Health, the health system that manages UHC.

Within that space are only three private exam rooms and six curtained bay areas. The new emergency room will have 20 private exam rooms, including critical care treatment rooms and rooms directly in front of the nurses’ station for behavioral health patients.

Plans for the emergency room expansion have been on the books officially since 2006, when $2 million was earmarked in the state’s capital outlay bill. That initial $2 million project now has grown to about $4 million due to inflated construction costs over the years.

Over the past decade, more than just the price of construction materials has changed. The public hospital is now managed by Lafayette General Health. State funding for the planned emergency room expansion and other repairs that had been included in state capital outlay bills were part of the hospital system’s lease agreement with the state.

The total cost of the project is about $4 million, with the state putting up about $3.8 million for construction and additional funding from Lafayette General for equipment and technology, according to Marie Lukaszeski, director of planning, design and property management at Lafayette General Health.

The project involves completely transforming the emergency department — replacing existing curtained bay patient areas with private exam rooms as well as renovations to the waiting and triage areas.

Work continued earlier this week on the initial phase of construction that included carving out the expanded emergency room from the existing courtyard, former library and auditorium space adjacent to the current emergency room.

Emergency department operations will shift to temporary locations as the construction continues.

“We are anticipating seeing patients in the new space in March, and after the move-in, we’ll demolish the existing ER to set up a temporary waiting area,” Lukaszeski said.

Then, crews will renovate the waiting room as part of the second phase of construction that also includes the triage area, security and public restrooms.

The third phase involves the renovation of the existing emergency room, which includes carving out additional exam rooms and a critical care room, Lukaszeski said.

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