New emergency department open at Benefis Health System

The first phase of the new emergency department opened at Benefis Health System on Tuesday.

There would be no interruption to operations during the switch, according to Benefis staff, and the new space increases the hospitals capability to more efficiently treat patients, handle surges in emergency room cases and respond to mass casualty or hazmat events.

Benefis is one of four level II trauma centers in Montana and the only one in the region.

Hospital staff used research the best design for emergency departments, plus staff and patient input to ensure the space best met their needs. Scott Schandelson, emergency department manager, said the hospital’s maintenance staff built mock rooms and employees designed the rooms.


The rooms in the first phase have 20-30 power sources to support the technology used in the department, Schandelson said, and all the rooms have USB ports for patients and families.

The section of the ED that opened this week includes three new trauma bays, one of which can be sealed in the case of infectious disease, hazmat or any other reason the patient needs to be isolated. There’s also a direct entrance to that trauma bay from the new ambulance entrance that includes decontamination showers. Two of the trauma bays can double as operating rooms if needed, Schandelson said.

They’ve also built redundancies into the rooms, Schandelson said, with duplicate systems in each room in the event of a mass casualty situation and they needed to treat a significant influx of patients.

About a year ago, the emergency department started using supply carts that are stocked with just about anything staff would need to treat patients. The mobile carts are in use in the new emergency department and Schandelson said implementing them early has helped the transition to the new building space.

The phase that is now open also includes a new secure helipad, built to accommodate Mercy Flight aircraft as well as the UH-1N Hueys flown at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Schandelson said. The new ambulance bay is enclosed and has radiant heat in the floor, creating an additional space for triage in a mass casualty situation or training scenarios.

In recent years, there’s been a focus on superbugs that can rapidly spread, Schandelson said. The new emergency department has the capability to lock down the ventilation system and increased capability to isolate patients, he said.

“We know from every flu season, it gets harder to isolate people,” he said.

Since Benefis was rebuilding the emergency department, Schandelson said they considered questions like “if something gets into the facility, how do we lock it down? How do you isolate people?”

The new emergency department space is expected to allow the staff to treat patients more efficiently, decreasing wait times, Schandelson said.

The project will nearly double the size of Benefis’ emergency department and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.