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Old ER goes through rehab
Hospital turns former emergency room into updated, modern rehab unit
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Effingham Health System CEO Norma Jean Morgan talks about the additions to the hospital before the ribbon cut is to welcome the community to the new rehab unit Monday. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

When the Effingham Health System moved its emergency room as part of its $30 million modernization plan, officials had in mind what to do with the old ER.

Monday morning, the Effingham Health System ushered in its new rehabilitative service department, rehabilitating the old ER space into a modern rehab unit for its patients.

“We had promised when we had the opening in 2012 of what we call our modernized area that we would take the space that we had and we would refurbish it, we would restructure it and use it for the good of our organization and our patients,” said Effingham Health System CEO Norma Jean Morgan. “We’ve been able to do that.”

The bulk of the work in turning the old ER into a new rehab unit, complete with speech therapy and hydrotherapy, was done in-house. The estimated cost for the project is approximately $300,000.

EHS officials saw the former ER space — it had served as the emergency room for 20 years — as an opportunity to expand its programs.

“As we looked at our modernization project that opened in 2012, we knew we had the opportunity of the vacated space,” said Tammy Mims, EHS chief operating officer. “We have been very fortunate to now look at the space and plan accordingly for the needs of our community.”

To augment the new rehab unit, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Mudano will move his office adjacent to the rehab unit.

According to Effingham Health System representatives, the hospital’s business has grown 38 percent since the opening of the modernization effort three years ago.

“We are so excited to be at this point today and what a blessing that we have a ribbon cutting,” said hospital authority member Lameisha Kelly, “when there are hospitals and health systems in our area that are closing their doors. They are not expanding. We are growing. We are providing more health services for the betterment of the people in the community.”

Hospital chief of staff Dr. James Cornwell said he can speak on the importance of rehab as a health care practitioner — and as a patient. He had knee replacement surgery and was at the hands of the rehab center.

“As a professional medical provider, a lot of people don’t realize how critically important physical therapy is,” he said. “On a personal basis, I have had the opportunity as a patient. These are the folks you love to hate. They hurt you, and you ask for more. But when you walk out of there, you’re as good as it is going to get. They are the best, and they now have a space that’s worthy of it.”

One of the features that appeals to hospital officials is the easy access to the rehab unit.

“We have been looking at ways at being very efficient but also looking at patient access,” Mims said. “Most people who go to therapy are on crutches or walkers. So our therapy area is immediately by the parking lot. You can park, walk right in one door and be in therapy. And that was planned specifically for that type of patient.”

The hospital also may add lymphedema treatment as part of its services, “which is a large need in our community for our cancer survivor patients,” Mims said. Lymphedema is swelling and fluid retention which can be caused by cancer treatments.

“We’re all living longer,” Mims said. “As we look more and more into wellness and into the prevention side of health care, our therapy center will be able to contribute to that.”

The hospital has been using as much of its existing footprint as possible and has taken steps to add parking spaces and make room for more doctor’s offices. Mims pointed out that as a community hospital, Effingham Health System has a visiting neurosurgeon, Dr. Randy Bishop, who flies in by helicopter and performs surgery at the hospital.

“It was amazing before we even opened the doors to the new space,” Mims said. “We have been able to attract a lot of new physicians and bring some talent that was needed to bring to expand those programs the community really needed. There’s not too much we don’t do here, especially as a community hospital.

“As the community grows, we are growing right along with it.”

Added rehab unit manager Z.T. Howard: “We want to be your first choice for your health care needs, and I want to be your only choice.”