To prepare for federal health care reform, University of Utah Hospital is planning a $3.5 million emergency-room expansion.
"We do think we'll be seeing more patients in the ER," said Colleen Connelly, director for critical care and emergency nursing.
The 16-bed renovation of existing hospital space is expected to take about a year. The number of patients being seen has already increased by about 20 percent since the University Hospital building opened in 2003, Connelley said.
"We have peak times when we're doing everything we can to see as many patients as we can," said Connelly.
When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, hospital officials expect the expanded insurance coverage to further swell emergency-room patient ranks, though they're hoping to eventually guide people toward primary care doctors to help reduce ER visits.
The remodeling project will add about 7,600 square feet to University Hospital's emergency room, which hasn't been expanded since the hospital was opened. The hospital's AirMed emergency helicopter services will move, as well as clinical, phone and office space, and the area will be remodeled for new hospital beds.
The project will be paid for with hospital funds.