Aria Health broke ground on Monday for a new $37.1 million emergency department at its Torresdale campus, a project that is expected to increase the facility’s emergency admissions capacity by more than 25,000 patient visits per year.
Hospital officials described the project as the single greatest expansion of the Torresdale facility since its opening in 1977 at 10800 Knights Road.
The 18-month undertaking will use $3 million in public funding and require accommodation from hospital staff and patrons, along with the surrounding community. Numerous hospital departments, including the existing emergency room, will be relocated during construction, while trucks removing debris from the site and delivering materials to it will traverse local streets.
“We are really an integral part of the community and want to make sure we partner with them in everything we do,” said Kathleen Kinslow, president and CEO of Aria Health. “In the end, we believe we will have a beautiful emergency department that will meet the needs of the people we serve every day.”
“It has really taken the whole hospital community to make this happen,” said Christine Winn, executive director of the Torresdale Campus.
According to Winn, the Torresdale emergency department is the only certified Level II Trauma Center between Center City and the St. Mary Medical Center north of Langhorne in Bucks County. It is equipped with a catheterization lab for heart attack patients. As a result, it’s in high demand, registering about 49,000 patient visits a year. It has experienced a gradual but persistent growth in the last several years.
“Our trauma program in the last year has grown from 1,000 [admissions] to 1,400,” Winn said.
“We are operating over our [intended] capacity,” Kinslow noted.
In the past, the hospital has been forced to divert patients elsewhere temporarily during particularly busy periods. The new emergency department will have 42 beds, an increase of 12. Other highlights will be separate entrances for patients arriving by ambulance and “walk-in” patients; a separate waiting area for patients awaiting test results; a new CT scanner; two new radiology rooms, and an outpatient center.
Crews will demolish an “annex” building (the former St. Michael’s Hall which pre-dates the hospital) that housed the hospital’s finance, pathology and engineering departments, among other non-patient offices. The new building will cover 90,000 square feet over three-levels, with plant management and engineering facilities in the basement, the emergency department on the ground floor and undetermined uses on the second floor.
In addition to the $37.1 million construction cost, the hospital will incur other $23 million in secondary costs, such as equipment, said Kinslow. Aria board chairman Robert J. Truitt credited state Sens. Mike Stack and Robert M. Tomlinson with helping secure $3 million in grant funding from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Most of the project funding will come directly from the hospital’s own operations, while private donations account for another portion, Kinslow said.
Stack and state Rep. Ed Neilson, who said he lives several blocks from the hospital, focused on job creation in their comments during the groundbreaking ceremony.
“You’re creating jobs and providing the best possible health care,” Stack said. “You’re a partner, our friend and our neighbor.”
“We always see [Aria] out in the community doing charitable work and creating jobs,” Neilson said.
The Torresdale Campus now employs 1,200 people. Hospital officials said they will increase staffing as needed, but they have not committed to a specific number of hires. Some jobs have been moved from the campus, while others relocated within the campus.
“In the interim, we’ve moved our emergency department into an empty patient care unit,” Winn said.
The temporary emergency department is closest to the hospital’s Red Lion Road entrance. Red signs placed throughout the campus direct arriving patients to the emergency facility.
With construction vehicles, fencing and materials occupying much of the campus, driveways and open-air parking lots may be more crowded than usual. Visitors will be able to use the hospital’s 400-space parking garage, which opened last year.
Turner Construction Co. is the general contractor. The same firm plans to complete construction on a new emergency room at Aria’s Frankford Campus in about six weeks, according to project manager Peter D’Antonio. That project cost $15 million.
D’Antonio and Winslow said that the Torresdale Campus’ neighbors will see construction vehicles heading toward and departing from the site throughout the 18-month project. But traffic will be busier in the early stages as vehicles remove demolition debris and deliver materials.
Generally, trucks will use Knights Road to access the Woodhaven Road Expressway, which connects to Interstate 95 and Roosevelt Boulevard (U.S. Route 1), although routes may change depending on the sources of materials and destinations of the debris.
Kinslow said that the hospital has a community advisory committee that will be involved in addressing any public concerns about construction traffic. ••
William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org