ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Construction is moving along for a major expansion at Strong Memorial Hospital. By 2027, hospital leaders say the emergency department will see a major renovation, nearly tripling in size with an additional nine-story tower.

It comes at a time when many hospitals across the state are overcrowded and understaffed.

Officials are calling it the largest project in URMC’s history, with $1 million dollars of funding from the federal government for it.

The expansion includes more than 100 private inpatient rooms. Three floors of the tower are marked off for cardiovascular work.

“We’re finally into the construction phase, and you can see all the work going on around us,” said Dr. Michael Kamali, Chair of Emergency Medicine. “And where we are standing right now, we’ll have a building around us and above us.” 

Kamali said the hospital has been utilizing a tent-like structure as a short-term solution to alleviate some of the crowding. While the tent idea was sparked by COVID-19, the hospital has been discussing long-term plans, years before that.

“We certainly need the space, as we are bursting at the seams for anyone who’s been inside the emergency department,” said Kamali.

Van Yannas, Director of Special Projects for URMC said at no point in the project will any current patients be affected.

“Some internal operational flow, we’ve adjusted, mainly with our loading dock,” he said. “The loading dock is directly adjacent to the ED. So with our new plan, we actually get to separate those, so you have a dedicated ED entrance and then a dedicated loading dock, with space in-between to allow easy-access for both ambulances and ambulatory patients.”

Yannas said this is major preparation for the future of medicine.

“The population is growing, we’re aging, health care is vitally important. The need for the medical staff is growing, and we need the proper amount of beds and space for patients,” he said.

As News 8 has previously reported, local hospital systems have been working to relieve older patients, bottlenecked in hospital beds as many nursing homes are too understaffed to take them on.

With new space, comes a need for more staff.

It’s a process always ongoing, says Kamali.

“That’s something we’ll need to tackle in the coming years, and something we’ve been tackling recently also,” he said.

Hospital leaders outlined the following tactics to recruit and retain more employees:

  • Competitive pay and benefits
  • Career advancement paths
  • Employee support services, educational benefits and pipeline programs

Kamali said the hospital will continue using the tent for a few years, as the project phases through.

Meantime, a statewide disaster emergency is still declared for healthcare staffing shortages.

A portion of the governors 2023 budget is going towards a worker bonus program, payment reform and increase home care worker minimum wage.