Milwaukee VA opens expanded Emergency Department - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


Milwaukee VA opens expanded Emergency Department

Ken Wasemiller

Ken Wasemiller, the primary contractor on the project, had a hip replacement at the Milwaukee VA (photo by Benjamin Slane).

By Jim Hoehn
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

For Ken Wasemiller, his work on the expanded Emergency Department at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center was a labor of love.

Wasemiller, a disabled Army Veteran, is the owner of Progressive Construction Services, the primary contractor on the project that will almost double the emergency care capabilities at the Milwaukee VA.

The project expands the Emergency Department from 11 beds to 20, including two rooms specially designed for mental health patients. The expansion was designed to optimize care and greatly reduce waiting times for patients.

The expanded facility is scheduled to open Dec. 5.

Wasemiller, who was a heavy equipment operator in the military, sustained severe injuries in a car crash while in the service, eventually necessitating a complete hip replacement, which was performed at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

“As a Veteran myself, it’s an honor to build new facilities to help the VA staff better the care of our nation’s Veterans,” Wasemiller said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 4. “As a patient here at the VA, it’s an honor, and a privilege, to give back to this back to this very hospital and staff who have provided me with excellent service and care for over 30 years.”

New expanded Emergency Department

The project will almost double the capacity of the Emergency Department.

The increased physical space should allow more patients to be seen, as well as greatly reduce wait and treatment times, said Ben Thelen, nurse manager at the Milwaukee VA.

“Right now, we have 11 rooms in our main ED, and we see over 24,000 Veterans a year in 11 rooms,” Thelen said. “So, we see really a lot of patients in a fairly small space. If you go to other EDs in the community and see a similar volume, they’re much bigger and a lot more real estate.”

The mental health treatment rooms were designed with patient safety in mind, including safety screws, special sinks, and oxygen hook-ups behind locked, recessed panels.

“About a quarter of our patients are here for mental health emergencies, so having those specially designed rooms is really, really nice,” Thelen said. “When you look at many EDs in the community, it’s very rare that they have physical rooms, let alone two, that were designed for that population.”

The expansion was designed and built to match the latest thinking on Fast Tracking people through an emergency department, with specific rooms and patient flow based on treatment needs.

Ribbon cutting ceremony

Participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony were Ken Wasemiller; Dr. Daniel Zomchek, Milwaukee VA director; Dr. Ian Martin, Medical College of Wisconsin; and Dr. Edward Callahan, Milwaukee VA chief of emergency medicine (photo by Benjamin Slane).

“The new space is designed to bring people back as quickly as possible to get in front of a provider, get seen, get treated and get out,” said Dr. Edward Callahan, chief of emergency medicine at the Milwaukee VA. “That is our goal.”

Emergency room visits cover a wide range of illnesses and injuries, which do not require the same attention or care, Thelen said.

“If you have a sore throat, but you’re otherwise healthy, maybe think you have strep throat or something, you don’t need to lay in an ED bed for that,” Thelen said. “But old school ED thinking, linear flow models … if you had somebody next to you having a heart attack, you’d be laying there with a sore throat, and you’d wait forever because everyone’s focused on the person having the heart attack.

“If you have a low acuity illness or injury, you shouldn’t be spending your entire day in an emergency room,” he said.

Video - Watch the Facebook video of the Emergency Department expansion ribbon-cutting ceremony.


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