PICTURED ABOVE: Lee Van Sise, R.N., director of West Creek Emergency Center, stands in front of the entrance to the new 10,000-square-foot facility. Photos by Brian M. Freer
Written by Page Freer
Located at the far end of Tuckahoe Creek Parkway, near the line between Goochland and Henrico counties, you’ll find HCA’s new West Creek Emergency Center. The freestanding emergency room is an extension of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital and is the first phase in what is planned to be a full-scale hospital and medical office complex.
The 10,000-square-foot facility has a relatively small footprint, but make no mistake: Though compact in size, West Creek Emergency Center is packed with state-of-the-art technologies—from CT imaging to a geothermal heating and cooling system.
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, West Creek Emergency Center provides emergency care for adults and children of all ages. The center receives patients on a walk-in basis as well as by county ambulance.
West Creek’s 12 patient rooms include a trauma room, Ob/Gyn and pediatric rooms, a decontamination room and a psychiatric room. A state-of-the-art imaging center offers CT, X-ray and ultrasound testing and there is an on-site laboratory staffed 24/7.
The facility has its own ambulance for transporting patients to area hospitals for inpatient care and more serious emergencies such as an active heart attack, says West Creek’s director, Lee Van Sise, R.N.
The center provides a much-needed safety net for Goochland County residents, many of whom before would have had to travel 45 minutes or more to reach the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility.
HCA officials also hope to raise awareness among West End residents that West Creek is just a five-minute drive from Short Pump.
Another “Cool” Feature
One of the most fascinating aspects of West Creek Emergency Center is something most patients and visitors won’t see but will feel.
The building relies on a geothermal heating and cooling system, and West Creek is the first HCA facility nationwide to adopt this energy-efficient technology. “We are on experimental ground,” says facilities manager Ron Buchanan, the HCA engineer who oversaw the installation of (and now monitors) the geothermal system.
Surprisingly, “Geothermal is not new,” says Buchanan. In fact, the concept was developed in 1855. The first commercial application (that Buchanan knows of) was in 1946 in Oregon, while Sweden adopted and fine-tuned the technology in the 1970s. Then, in 2004, Buchanan says a polyplastic material was developed that aided in the installation of geothermal units, making them more efficient.
How does it work?
West Creek’s geothermal system uses groundwater temperature to heat and cool the building. A network of 27 wells, each 300 feet deep and set 10 feet apart, surrounds the facility. The groundwater gathered in the wells converges at three points and passes over coils that can either heat or cool the water. Fans then blow air over the water and that air is circulated through the building.
The groundwater temperature averaged 55 degrees over the summer, allowing Buchanan to cool the facility as low as 57 degrees—even when outside temperatures soared into the hundreds—using only the energy needed to power the water pumps and fans.
Buchanan says the system cost $300,000 to build—nearly twice the cost of a conventional system—but he believes the investment will be paid back in five to six years thanks to cost savings on energy and water.
Come fall and winter, the system will be used to heat the facility. “How well can I heat this building with 55-degree groundwater [when outdoor temperatures are below freezing]?” Buchanan asks. He’s eager to find out.