1st ER upgrade in 3 decades

It has one of the best reputations Islandwide, yet Nassau University Medical Center’s emergency department hasn’t been renovated since 1974 and is, in the word of chief executive Arthur Gianelli, "antiquated."

Emergency patients at the East Meadow hospital lie in beds shoved tightly together, separated by curtains. Prisoners from the county jail often rest next to nursing home patients. Walk-in emergency patients face a labyrinth of hallways that can make finding treatment areas tricky.

But, Gianelli said Tuesday, by early 2011, a $25-million renovation and expansion will change all that. "This is our signature construction project," Gianelli told hospital employees, officials and union leaders at a groundbreaking ceremony at NUMC. "This will define how we deliver care to the community."

About two-thirds of the money is coming from state grants, the remainder from the county. The renovation is the first of a number of ambitious projects, the rebuilding of A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale and construction of an ambulatory services facility next year.

The emergency department serves about 75,000 patients a year. Growing from 25,000 square feet to 45,000 square feet over two floors, the new department will be able to accommodate up to 100,000 patients, the hospital said.

The number of treatment bays will go from 28 to 54 and patients will be separated by sliding glass doors. Prisoners and psychiatric patients will be treated on the ground floor in separate areas. An updated imaging center will include a state-of-the-art CT scanner. A new entrance on Hempstead Turnpike will allow easier access for patients.

Dr. Anthony Boutin, chairman of the emergency department, said he was "excited and apprehensive" about the renovation. "We’re going to have to ramp up the operation,” he said.

The hospital struck a "project labor agreement" with The Nassau Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council to help predict labor costs and schedules. The renovation will mean from 75 to a few hundred new jobs, Gianelli said.

The construction company, Plaza Construction LLC of Manhattan, also has pledged to hire 25 percent minority- and/or women-owned business enterprises