New construction of UNMH CCT adult emergency department.
By Makenzie McNeill

UNM Hospital Critical Care Tower Update: Adult Emergency Department

The new adult emergency department (ED) in The University of New Mexico Hospital’s highly anticipated critical care tower (CCT) is nearing substantial completion and the new space is designed with New Mexico patients and their safety in mind.

Construction teams have been working tirelessly to bring this contemporary medical facility to life, and recent updates on the development of the new ED reflect their hard work and dedication.

As of the end of 2023, the elevators serving the ED are now in place. The concrete paving, walls, and ceilings in the new ambulance bay and patient drop-off area are complete. Underground utilities are being installed in the rooms that will hold imaging equipment.

Team members who currently serve in UNM Hospital’s adult ED welcome this exciting news as they eagerly await moving into this larger, more innovative space.

Our ED is of critical importance to the safety and well-being of over two million people in New Mexico, southern Colorado, and eastern Arizona
Micah Sternberg, UNM Hospital

“Our ED is of critical importance to the safety and well-being of over two million people in New Mexico, southern Colorado, and eastern Arizona,” said Micah Sternberg, manager and interim director of emergency services at UNM Hospital.

“Nobody does what we do. So, our department growing both in size and efficiency will bolster public safety for millions of people.” 

Around 7,000 critically ill or injured patients are treated at UNM Hospital every year, the only level I trauma center within 400 miles of Albuquerque in any direction.

Many of these patients begin their care in the adult ED, the busiest in all of New Mexico. Over the last decade, the ED has grappled with long-standing issues of overcapacity and lack of space. COVID has exacerbated those challenges, so the need for a larger ED is greatly needed and long overdue.  

Pearl Richins, executive director of emergency services at UNM Hospital, is confident that the new ED will help more patients get the specialized care they require more efficiently.

“The new space in the critical care tower is going to help us level up in terms of the care that we are already providing,” she said. 

“Having better defined and expanded areas, including those for behavioral health and critical care patients, will help serve our population much better.”

Critical Care Tower Adult ED Facility

  • The new space will be more than twice the size of its current ED.
  • More behavioral health exam rooms will be available.
  • The helipad on level 9 will provide direct access to the ED via two dedicated elevators. 
  • A new larger ambulance bay will be connected to the ED.

The new ED in the tower will measure 58,477 square feet, a sizeable increase from their current space of 27,026 square feet.

In total, the new space will hold 68 exam rooms: 4 trauma, 6 resuscitation, 8 fast track, 10 behavioral health, and 40 standard.

A host of imaging equipment will live in the ED, including two computed tomography (CT) scanners and two general radiology rooms.

A new ambulance bay, patient drop-off, and helipad will bring patients to the emergency and trauma care they need faster.

Moreover, the design and blueprint of the new ED will streamline workflow and improve operations. 

“We have an opportunity in moving to an area with more patient care spaces and a fundamentally different layout to redefine the philosophy of how we organize the department,” Sternberg said.

“We are reorganizing the way in which we think about providing emergency care and increasing efficiency at every step. More than just a larger department, we’re getting the opportunity to redesign the way we use the department, as well.”

As construction on the CCT heads further into 2024, team members at UNM Hospital look out their windows to watch this eagerly expected facility continue to take shape. Staff in the ED are especially excited, looking forward to serving patients in this advanced, state-of-the-art structure. 

The CCT is expected to finish construction sometime in the spring of 2025.

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