SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Patients in the Kanawha Valley will soon see some changes when it comes to access to critical care. Thomas Hospital plans to nearly double the number of beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) as part of an effort to expand access and services across the South Charleston campus.

When people experience an emergency, they want to be able to get the care they need close to home. Leaders at the hospital say the expansion will make that easier.

“There are times that we have to send patients out of our emergency room to other facilities because there aren’t enough in the valley,” said Jennie Kahn, Chief Nursing Officer, Vice President for Thomas Health.

Thomas currently has 16 beds in the ICU. By this time next year, they plan to have 27. Hospital leaders say there is a significant need.

“This means that should you need critical care, you should be able to receive it here without having to be transferred anywhere,” Kahn said. “It is a very stressful time in the first place. You have to hold them in the emergency room until you can find somewhere to accept them. I mean, we’ve had to send patients to Kentucky, other parts of this state. Even during the pandemic, we sent them to North Carolina just to find a critical care bed. So hopefully with this expansion that will no longer be needed.”

Right now, Thomas is preparing rooms that have not been used recently. This effort is to house the step-down ICU and begin expansion work.

They currently have 11 beds for the step-down ICU. They will have those beds moved to a different section of the hospital Monday. Eventually, they will increase the number of step-down beds to 28.

“This expansion is going to allow Thomas Health to increase our ability to care for medically complex patients and allow them to receive care closer to home while they recover,” said Kristin Anderson, Vice President of Marketing.

The growth will require the hospital to hire more people. That is a challenge they are preparing to meet.

“We have sign-on bonuses in place, we have reviewed our wages, we have a critical care stipend to attract the staff that we need,” Kahn said.

Thomas Hospital plans to have the ICU expansion phase completed in 2023 and the ICU step-down project finished in early 2024.