UAB Hospital Emergency Department to expand with state support

To address the critical need for more emergency medical services in Birmingham and Alabama, UAB Hospital — with support from the State of Alabama — is creating 59 new exam rooms and more than 66,000 square feet of clinical space to meet service demand. 

Stream ER SignageTo address the critical need for more emergency medical services in Birmingham and Alabama, UAB Hospital — with support from the State of Alabama — is creating 59 new exam rooms and more than 66,000 square feet of clinical space to meet service demand. The University of Alabama at Birmingham will begin temporary and long-term expansions of the UAB Hospital University Emergency Department, as unprecedented demand for emergency medical services continues to grow and exceed capacity. 

UAB Hospital has seen 20 percent UED patient volume growth in the last five years and expects more patient volume growth in the next five years. 

“The physical expansion of our emergency department is critically needed and vital to ensuring that UAB Hospital can continue to improve the lives and health of every patient who needs our care,” said UAB President Ray Watts. 

Temporary expansion renovations began in June 2023 with interior construction allocated to North Pavilion space, which will create nine new exam rooms and temporary waiting room space. In August 2023, UAB Hospital will begin installation of two leased mobile treatment units that will be located outside of UED along 18th Avenue South. The units will provide 16 additional treatment spaces for patient care and are anticipated to begin use in early fall.

The long-term plans for the $73 million expansion of UED will include renovations to the first floor of UAB Hospital’s North Pavilion, turning the adjacent atrium into clinical care space and the construction of a new three-story space in the drop-off drive of North Pavilion. With 66,030 new square feet of construction anticipated, the project will provide 59 new exam rooms and additional imaging capacity for emergency clinical care.

With Gov. Kay Ivey signing into law Alabama’s largest education and General Fund budgets, $50 million in funds has been allocated from the State of Alabama to support the long-term expansion of UED; that expansion has received Stage 1 approval from the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, with additional approvals needed.

“We are grateful to Gov. Ivey and the State, as well as the UA System Office and the Board of Trustees, for their support,” said Anupam Agarwal, dean of the UAB Heersink School of Medicine and senior vice president for Medicine. “Central to UAB’s mission is serving all residents of the State of Alabama, and this project will provide the resources needed to continue to do just that.”

“This significant expansion is an investment in vital public services for our state,” Ivey said. “I’m proud to support allocation of funds to help address the critical need for more emergency services and look forward to working with UAB further to make a positive impact on the welfare of our state.”

inside hospital exteriorBoth projects will expand the volume of space available for patient care. Added capacity will also improve wait times, patient satisfaction and staff satisfaction and will allow for new operational models to be developed and implemented. 

“The Emergency Department serves as a key entry portal for patients to UAB Hospital, with 30 percent of admissions coming through emergency care,” said Dawn Bulgarella, CEO of the UAB Health System. “Our expansion plans will enhance our ability to provide unmatched treatment for every patient who walks through our doors, minimize the need for diversions and keep up with our increasing census rates.”  

In addition to addressing current and predicted increases in patient volume, UED expansion will help UAB keep pace with the complexity of care needed; UAB’s status as the only American College of Surgeons-recognized Level I trauma center in the state means it cares for the most sick, critical and vulnerable patients in Alabama.  

“Among the demand for emergency services are treating an aging population, high trauma volumes, patient disconnections to primary care and high patient acuity, making it increasingly challenging to continue to provide the level of care expected at an ACS Level I trauma center like UAB,” said Marie-Carmelle Elie, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine. “Our field is taking on a tremendous amount to care for patients with complex needs, and I’m optimistic that our short- and long-term expansions here at UAB will satisfy our needs and enable us to do even more to care for patients in the future.”

Pending additional approvals by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, it is anticipated construction on UED long-term expansion will begin in 2024.