Durham County

Duke Health puts big bucks into Duke Regional Hospital. Here’s what will grow.

Duke Regional Hospital’s emergency department is one of the targets of a $102.4 million expansion plan announced Wednesday.
Duke Regional Hospital’s emergency department is one of the targets of a $102.4 million expansion plan announced Wednesday.

Duke Regional Hospital is in line for a $102.4 million expansion that includes a bigger emergency department and more facilities for psychiatric patients, officials from the Duke University Health System say.

The project will take three years and require construction on the north end of the hospital. Duke also needs to secure permission from state regulators before moving 19 beds for psychiatric patients from Duke University Hospital to Duke Regional.

Duke Health is funding the work, even though the regional hospital on North Roxboro Street is actually a county owned facility that Duke operates via long-term partnership agreement.

“This is a big plan for us and the most significant addition to our campus since the hospital opened 41 years ago,” said Katie Galbraith, Duke Regional’s president.

Duke’s intentions for the emergency department are straightforward. The plan recognizes that a facility that was built to handle up to about 35,000 visits by patients in a year is actually seeing up to about 64,000 each year, Galbraith said.

When finished, the expansion will give the renovated emergency department 49 treatment rooms, rather than the present 36, and 12 private observation rooms in place of the existing six.

But the project also sets up a move to consolidate at Duke Regional services key to Duke’s behavioral health program.

The behavioral-health or psychiatric program at Duke Regional will get an emergency department of its own with 18 beds. It’ll also have 30 clinic rooms for treating outpatients and 42 beds for patients whose treatment requires hospitalization. Those numbers include the beds transferred from Duke University Hospital.

Duke Regional already offers in-patient psychiatric treatment, in point of fact the only such beds available in Durham County. Duke Hospital has outpatient and emergency services for psychiatric patients , and will retain some of its emergency-service capability even after consolidation.

The expansion at Duke Regional, however, should “allow for better coordination of care” for psychiatric patients, Galbraith said.

In deciding where to consolidate services, Duke Regional ultimately seemed like the “ideal location” because it has “easy access in terms of parking for family and loved ones to be able to come” along with “the space to be able to expand,” she said, drawing an obvious contrast to the congestion of Duke’s main health-affairs campus.

Also, “behavioral health care is an important part of what a community hospital should be providing,” she said.

Galbraith said hospital leaders had kept the Durham County Commissioners in the loop regarding the proposal.

The commissioners’ vice chairman, James Hill, is a member of the Durham County Hospital Corp.’s trustee board. He’s been “very much aware of the planning process as we’ve updated the board,” Galbraith said, adding that she’d also “met with the county commissioners individually to let them know about our plans.”

County Commissioner Heidi Carter confirmed Wednesday that Galbraith had “asked to meet with each” of the five commissioners.

Carter and commissioners Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs attended one such meeting together and received “lots of details about the need and number of beds” involved in the plan. They also inquired about the financing and received an assurance that Duke was footing the bill.

“We thought the plans sounded visionary and we’re glad our health system is going to be able to better meet the needs of our community,” Carter said. “And I’m glad the county doesn’t need to take out a bond to help fund this.”

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg