NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - More than 100,000 patients come through the emergency department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, up from the approximately 40,000 cases that came through the doors less than 20 years ago.
"Spaces that were designed for one patient now have had two," said Dr. Robert Eisenstein, the hospital chief of emergency care. Obviously the number of patients has more than doubled."
To meet the growing demand, as the city plans major redevelopment projects in the downtown that will add thousands to the daytime population, the hospital is expanding the emergency department. The space is increasing in area by 50 percent, from 400,000 square feet to 600,000 square feet, and adding features to include the latest technology.
"The science of medicine advances and you need to adjust to take advantage of that," said John Gantner, president & CEO of the hospital, part of the RWJBarnabas network.
Gantner's comments on Tuesday came as he and other hospital and city officials held a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the completion of the first phase of the expansion. Somehow, all of this work is being done without increasing the footprint of the hospital, but rather through the reorganization of existing space.
"This space we are in right now was a ambulance bay," Gantner said as he stood in the new emergency room lobby. "It was like a chess game game moving things around," Ganter said of completing the first phase.
Once completed in 2019, the emergency department will have more than 100 new private treatment areas for patients, including a section to handle patients seeking treatment for lesser emergent illnesses or injuries.

Previously, patients in these less serious cases had to placed wherever space was available, often in out-of-the-way rooms that were farther from the care providers, hospital officials said.
The expansion will provide a larger pediatric emergency area for children and their families, and feature a radiology and imaging facility within the emergency department.
Where the hospital previously could handle three resuscitation patients at one time, it now can accommodate 12 of these patients in the event of mass casualty incidents.
In addition to raising donations for the expansion, the hospital also sold a bond to finance the multi-million project that began last year.
Gantner said the hospital's designation as both a level 1 trauma center and a stroke also contributed to the increase in patients.
New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, who attended the event, hailed the massive project as providing many financial and medical benefits to the city.
While some municipalities only see hospitals as tax exempt businesses, "New Brunswick saw it as an opportunity and economic initiative," Cahill said. "It has a ripple effect in the local economy," he said.