The Journey to a New Emergency Department Q&A with Dominic Gagnon

The new Emergency Department (ED) currently under construction at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center is a massive project requiring an enormous amount of planning and coordination – not to mention five Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of dirt, 705 tons of steel, 91 miles of electrical wire and 1,055 gallons of paint!

To learn more about the ins and outs of this undertaking, we sat down with Dominic Gagnon, a lead consultant on the project.

What does it take to build an ED of this size?

It takes an incredible team! The complexity of the Emergency Department environment with components such as imaging, trauma rooms, IT integration, operational workflows that need to accommodate various emergencies and volumes, etc., requires the knowledge and input of the ED and ancillary clinical and operations teams, internal partners such as Facilities/Engineering, Security, Environmental Services, Materials Management, systems engineers, architects, contractors and more.

Is there anything unique about this particular project?

The construction itself. It is not often you are building below an existing structure on stilts. In addition to building under existing hospital floors, Lahey made additional accommodations in anticipation of future uses, for example installing linear accelerator vaults for imaging and infrastructure for a future helipad on the roof.

Another item unique to building an entirely new Emergency Department, as opposed to simply renovating one in place, is the move itself. Lahey will essentially be turning on the new light switch one day and shutting off the old without stopping ED operations. This may sound like a simple task, but the moving of patients and delivery of care on that day requires significant training, planning and community education. Emergency Department staff are used to adjusting to unexpected, less-than-ideal circumstances and are excellent at developing contingency plans on the fly. While great care is being taken to develop a comprehensive move plan, I have the utmost respect and confidence in the ED caregivers, who based on their daily experience of helping communities and patients, will be well-equipped to manage this upcoming move.

What steps have you taken to ensure current patients and staff aren’t affected by the construction?

The level of detail involved in every aspect of the work is amazing. For example, when paving is occurring, special charcoal filters are temporarily installed in the intake ducts determined to be affected on that day based on the way the wind is blowing. We also built temporary walls in patient hallways near the ICUs to keep out dust, noise and fumes, and installed well-marked walkways for colleagues entering and leaving the building. That level of detail goes into things every step of the way to ensure the comfort and safety of our patients and staff. There is nothing arbitrary happening on the construction project. This speaks to the first question and the complexity involved and need for a team as good as Lahey has on this project.