One issue at the emergency room, built in 1974, is with unexpected emergencies and room for staff to maneuver under hectic conditions.

The emergency room at St. Alexius Devils Lake Hospital was built in 1974 and the hospital is currently raising funds for a significant upgrade.

One problem now, according to radiologist Dr. Richard Johnson, is that patients don’t enjoy basic privacy considerations due to cramped conditions in the ER.

“In medicine, that’s one of the priorities, that what you have going on in your family is your business,” Johnson said. “We have three stalls here with curtains between them. Maybe you’re pregnant, or your 15-year-old daughter is pregnant. It’s just not right.”

In Johnson’s view, staff sometimes struggles to comply with HIPAA laws that govern patient privacy due to the limited space. Patients and others can often easily overhear private medical conversations.

Another issue is with unexpected emergencies and room for staff to maneuver under hectic ER conditions.

“I remember coming in here about five years ago, and there was a big fight - baseball bats, tire irons, two families - and they were in the hallway,” Johnson said. “People were carrying it in from the street, there were cops standing there, X-ray techs were trying to get someone who’s been knocked out with a tire iron in to get a scan, other guys were trying to get into the lab. It was just a nightmare.”

St. Alexius Devils Lake President Andy Lankowicz, who is taking the lead on the project, says that a more spacious and technologically advanced emergency room is necessary for a growing community such as Devils Lake and the Lake Region.

“We aren’t anticipating increased demand because of it, but Devils Lake has a stable business climate and it has growth, unlike a lot of other communities,” Lankowicz said. “People don’t want to go outside of the community to get care. So, by bringing the ER up to the current state of technology, you recruit and retain staff, and that results in a positive synergy.”

Cost

The fundraising for the project is planned in two phases. Phase I is the community fundraising aspect, and the hospital hopes to raise $279,750 during that push. Those funds will be used for an updated physical therapy facility, though Lankowicz stressed that the physical therapy aspect is not the main focus.

A recent fundraiser netted $50,000 towards the project.

The second phase involves convincing CHI St. Alexius to fund the new emergency room. Johnson is confident that his hospital has the credentials and the community support to get it done.

“CHI has something like 70 hospitals all over the country, and this is one of the top ones as far as productivity. So we’re in the black, we’re doing well, we’re solid,” Johnson said.

“We’re also solid in the community,” he added. “We’ve got a lot going on, so we want to get this (ER) up to where it should be, and I think there are a lot of people who want to do that, too.”

The total cost of the project is estimated at about $1.4 million, and Lankowicz is hopeful that it will be done within five years.

He also said that the community portion of the project is all donation-based while ensuring that the project will be seen through.

“We aren’t asking for any tax revenue. This is all funded through donations and internal capital,” Lankowicz said.

“This will happen,” he continued. “It’s just a matter of how quickly.”