WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) – Samaritan Medical Center’s emergency department (ED) will undergo a construction project to expand and enhance the care of psychiatric patients within the secure behavioral health unit (BHU). 

News of the project was announced via a press release on Friday, September 22. The expansion is needed as the average daily census of patients has been consistently exceeding physical space. The project is set to cost $2.5 million dollars and construction has begun.

Psychiatric patient numbers have continued to climb over the years and prior to the pandemic. The average daily census of psychiatric patients in the past 12 months has grown to approximately eight patients, with a high of over 20 patients at one time. There has been an increase in pediatric patients needing care. 

The current physical space to help safely stabilize these patients is not adequate within the emergency department’s current behavioral health unit.

Samaritan leaders contacted the Department of Health (DOH) with our physical constraints and then decided to seek emergency approval on a Certificate of Need (CON) that identified the space we need. The full approval process can take up to 12 months. However, the state quickly approved it.

Construction is underway to expand to a 12-bed secure unit to meet the needs of the community and the ED will have 29 medical beds. The current coffee shop in the main lobby will move to a different space in the lobby to help create space. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2024.

The BHU expansion project is set to cost $2.5 million dollars. This was not budgeted for in 2023, but has been deemed necessary as a matter of patient safety concerns and to mitigate extra staffing needs. Several revenue sources have been identified, and Samaritan continues to look for grant dollars to help offset the construction costs.