MERRILLVILLE | Medical staff joined community leaders and hospital officials Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception marking the new emergency department at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus.
The new department cost more than $8 million. At 21,000 square feet — nearly double the size of the former emergency department — it will open to the public March 20.
Methodist Hospitals President and CEO Ian McFadden said the project is the hospital's first major expansion in about a decade and demonstrates the commitment Methodist has in investing in health care in Northwest Indiana.
More details of a major overhaul will be announced in the coming weeks, he said.
William Braman, chairman of the Methodist Hospitals board of directors, said the board's expectations of the new emergency department were exceeded.
"This is an important milestone in Methodist Hospitals' far-reaching expansion plan," he said.
Being situated near major industry, urban areas and mass transit means there is a critical ongoing need for emergency services in Northwest Indiana, McFadden said.
The hospital is in the process of elevating itself to a Level III trauma center status. The new emergency department is equipped with two trauma rooms. It offers therapeutic hypothermia and indoor hazardous materials showers for decontamination.
The whole department has 23 rooms, with two procedure rooms. The rooms have walls and glass doors, rather than curtain partitions. A private room with a private location is designated for sexual assault victims.
Although the space is aesthetically pleasing, the bigger goal is improving the level of care to patients, said Dr. Michael McGee, chief of emergency medicine.
"We're excited about the potential of what we can improve," he said.
McGee remembered hearing rumors 10 years ago of Methodist opening a new ER, and he is thankful for hospital officials' commitment to make it happen.
Thanks also came from Merrillville Town Councilman Shawn Pettit.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, and congratulations," he told the group.
The new department will aid in the town's economic development because hospital quality is one of the factors businesses consider when they want to open in a community, he said.
"I have been on the council nine years, and every project you folks have done has been exemplary," Pettit said.
The next phase of emergency department development, slated for the fall, will bring another 12,000 square feet of space, McFadden said.