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Medway Maritime Hospital, Gillingham, launches new Emergency Department

By Ed McConnell

Doctors are hoping this morning's launch of a long-awaited Emergency Department at Medway Maritime will cure the hospital's stricken A&E.

Not only that, says an enthusiastic Dr Ashike Choudhury, but the £21 million Department of Health investment could provide the facilities to finally attract the consultants the trust needs - boosting numbers from 10 to 16.

A consultant himself and the department's clinical lead, he is full of praise for a team which has for years been "punching well above its weight".

Currently emergency medicine at the site in Windmill Road, Gillingham, is confined to an outdated and undersized building, but now large purpose-built resuscitation bays, an all new assessment unit and extra major care pods will greet patients at what is often referred to as the hospital's 'front door'.

It's a major step forward for a hospital which is only just starting to adjust to life out of special measures and it's hoped it's one which will pave the way to modernisation throughout the facility.

Medway Maritime draws in more ambulances than any other hospital in Kent, Surrey or Sussex and the transfer times between the back of the vehicle and a bed can often make for painful reading.

The hospital's new emergency department opens this morning
The hospital's new emergency department opens this morning

That's why four assessment stations will make such a difference, explains Dr Choudhury.

Before patients would be taken off the ambulance and wheeled straight in to the waiting area or trauma centre depending on their condition, now those who don't at first appear to require immediate attention can be assessed by consultants before being directed to the appropriate place.

It's a simple measure but one which could drastically cut waiting times.

Dr Ashike Choudhury, ED Clinical Lead Consultant
Dr Ashike Choudhury, ED Clinical Lead Consultant

Some of those patients may not even need to spend any more time at the hospital.

Frail individuals will be seen in a special bay, meaning many who may have had a fall and suffered a minor injury can be treated quickly and returned home, which is often the best place for them.

"It stops them spending longer than needed in hospital, meaning they don't get stuck in the system and develop any further conditions," Dr Choudhury said, adding patients can start losing muscle mass after being in a bed for just 24 hours.

Those who need further emergency care will be sent to the major care bays - four newly created ones will bring the total to 16 - for things like blood tests and x-rays.

Some patients will be so ill they'll bypass the assessment centre altogether and end up in the hospital's new and improved resuscitation ward.

Here there are seven rooms, one specifically for children and one equipped to deal with obese patients.

During the department's simulation day on Monday it was in one of these you would have found 24-year-old Stacey, an expectant mother with very low blood pressure and a fever.

A team of nine medics under the watchful eye of a consultant worked tirelessly on Stacey, who was in quite some pain, eventually, after several minutes and a slight technical hitch, safely delivering her baby.

Thankfully for everyone involved on this occasion Stacey was a dummy but from today they'll be plenty of women like her passing through the automatic doors.

A simulation day at Medway Maritime Hospital sees doctors oversee a birth
A simulation day at Medway Maritime Hospital sees doctors oversee a birth

Previously the hospital only had five bays for major trauma.

At a fraction of the size Dr Choudhury says it would have been a real struggle to fit enough staff in to give Stacey the same level of care.

Those bays have now been closed off, the new trauma centre providing staff much-needed breathing space and moving care into a more modern environment.

Dr Choudhury explains 80% of errors in medicine are human, but many of those are a consequence of unsuitable facilities.

"My team should be able to save you if you're savable", he says, and the new £11m emergency department - the remaining £10m has been spent on refurbishing existing facilities - will put them in a far better position to do that.

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