BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Less than 10 months after the ceremonial turning of the first shovels of dirt, the finishing touches are being placed on the $4.8 million expansion of the emergency department at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital.
And beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, hospital officials will show off the finished product at an open house and business after hours.
The project, which expanded the department from nine beds to 19 and increases the annual capacity to about 28,000 patients, was completed virtually on schedule.
At the groundbreaking, held last Aug. 24, Tarboro Mayor Donald Morris said the emergency department “is such an important part of the hospital’s role in the community. The emergency department provides the only (health) care some people receive.”
Morris said the expansion would add to the livability and quality of life in the community. Dr. Brookes Peters, chair of the hospital’s directors’ council, described the expansion as, “The next big event in the evolution of healthcare in our community.
“In the medical community, we refer to the ED as the safety net because it provides care for all comers at all times.”
Peters noted the hospital hired its first fulltime emergency room physician in 1983.
Dr, Barry Bunn, chief of the hospital’s medical staff, said that 14 years ago, the emergency room saw 10,500 patients annually — almost one-third of the more than 26,000 that come through the doors today.
“Sometimes, the volume is a little overwhelming,” he said.
While the emergency department was the main thrust, rennovation and expansion addressed the hospital’s main lobby, hallway, and main entrance restrooms.
The expansion of the emergency department resulted in the need to relocate the helicopter landing pad, which eliminated a portion of the walking track located between the hospital and North Main Street.
Because of the ongoing work, the traffic pattern was changed at the hospital. As the project is wrapped up, a new traffic pattern will be made public to allow for easy access to the hospital as well as the emergency department.