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JEFFERSON HILLS (KDKA) — One of the area’s busiest emergency departments is about to undergo a major expansion that will mean not only more space, but a new model of care that hospital officials say will greatly benefit patients and their families.

Allegheny Health Network is launching a $21 million renovation of Jefferson Hospital’s emergency department. Located in Jefferson Hills, the hospital serves neighborhoods in Allegheny’s southern suburbs and the Mon Valley.

The first phase of construction will create a new, more secure emergency department entrance and relocate the hospital’s helipad to the roof in a spot that’s closer to the ER. Eventually the ER square footage will expand to 30,000 feet, or a 50 percent increase. Twelve more beds will be added to the ER along with a new, more comfortable waiting area.

The layout of the new ER will also be different, said Emergency Department Director Dr. Richard Sullivan at a news conference announcing the expansion.

“Most ER departments are spread around a central nursing station. We’re going to break out into eight different patient care teams,” or “pods” explained Sullivan.

“Patient care teams will be closer to the patients and their visitors, so they’ll be able to explain things better and get the treatment to them more promptly. We’re going to become a more patient centered emergency department as well as becoming trauma ready for the South Hills,” said Sullivan.

The new ER will also have flexible rooms and areas designed to accommodate specific types of patients and conditions.

“We’ll have separate rooms for pediatrics and people who require behavioral health type rooms,” said Cynthia Hundorfean, CEO and President of AHN, Jefferson’s parent company.

In addition to the specially staffed and decorated pediatrics rooms and a dedicated behavioral health assessment area, there will be specialized areas for trauma and medical resuscitation and a space for “quick care” treatment of people with less serious injuries and conditions.

“It’s going to be great not only for the patients but the caregivers too,” said Hundorfean.

One million dollars in state grant money is helping to fund the project. The hospital’s board is also heavily involved in raising the financial and community support needed.

“This is not an easy project,” said Jefferson Board of Directors Chairman Ed Morasco said at the news conference. “The leadership team at AHN and here at Jefferson has been committed to making that the least disruptive to the folks who need the emergency department as well as getting us where we need to be with a new state-of-the-art facility.”

Dr. Sullivan says the expansion is overdue to keep up with the increased demand for services in the South Hills community.

“We really want to transform the way that we deliver care to our region,” said Sullivan.

The first phase of the renovation will be completed sometime next year.