Take a look inside Tobey Hospital’s new emergency center

May 18, 2022

Tobey Hospital’s new Baldwin Makepeace Emergency Center is finally complete — five years after the design process began, and about two years since crews broke ground at the site.

Hospital staff led tours of the space on Wednesday afternoon. 

The new wing won’t see its first patient until sometime after midnight on May 25. Until then, patients seeking emergency care should go to the hospital’s main entrance on High Street. When the new wing opens, so will the Main Street entrance.

The new wing has 30 exam rooms — up from 9 in the current emergency room — arranged around the perimeter of the space. In the center are nurses’ stations and storage for supplies. That supply storage will have built-in scales, so when nurses retrieve bandages or other items, a computer will add that item to a list of supplies to be ordered — think of it like the opposite of the scales at a self check-out.

Nicole Rosa, the project manager for the $33 million expansion, highlighted elements of the design that pay homage to the Tobey Homestead and the hospital’s history. Close to the entrance is the Tobey Cafe, which will offer coffee and a calm place to sit. Above a small electric fireplace is a mantel supported by salvaged architectural details from the homestead, which was torn down to make room for the new wing. A small coffee bar was created using bricks from the homestead, and the pattern of bricks in the courtyard outside is that of the historic home. 

“There can be a frenetic feel to emergency centers, but there’s been such attention to detail from Nicole and her team to make it therapeutic and calming,” said Michelle Loranger, Southcoast’s director of philanthropy. 

One detail Rosa said she’s particularly proud of is the windows that shine natural light into the emergency room from near the high ceilings. The sculptural pendant lights that hang over the nurses’ stations are made from acoustic paneling, which will help absorb sound. 

The layout of the space was created in partnership with the clinical staff, Rosa said, to ensure they can move efficiently throughout the space and have what they need, when and where they need it.

Another priority: Improving patient privacy. The hospital’s current emergency room was built in the 1980s to accommodate 15,000 patients each year. But patient volumes in recent years have far surpassed that, as the emergency room treats about 30,000 patients a year. 

The new center was designed to treat 40,000 patients each year, so there’s room to grow. Exam rooms are separated by walls, not curtains, and there are even stretcher bays that can be made private when necessary through glass that can turn opaque.

“Now, we have the space to accommodate the volume with privacy,” said Loranger.

Two of the exam rooms are designed for trauma victims, and are located next to the ambulance entrance. The center also features a decontamination room. 

The center also includes six rooms designed to serve those experiencing a mental health crisis while keeping the patient and staff safe. 

“This is going to be a total game-changer for our staff as well, and they really deserve it,” said Shawn Badgley, Southcoast’s public information officer.

The expansion includes space for hospital staff to take a break as well as a lounge for EMS crews.

“The community has continued to support this project, much as they have since 1922,” said Loranger.

A ribbon-cutting is planned for Monday.