SALEM — A $207 million expansion that has been a decade in the making is about to become a reality at North Shore Medical Center.

The Salem hospital will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday to celebrate the upcoming opening of a new emergency department, behavioral health center, and patient-room floor. The behavioral health center is scheduled to open on Oct. 1, the medical floor on Oct. 28, and the emergency department on Nov. 3.

On a tour of the new facilities on Monday, North Shore Medical Center CEO Dr. David Roberts called the expansion a "giant, good thing for the community."

"This is a very concrete benefit for the folks of the North Shore that our system invested in," he said.

The expansion is part of a plan to close Union Hospital in Lynn, which is part of North Shore Medical Center, and consolidate inpatient and acute emergency care in Salem. When the new emergency department in Salem opens at 6 a.m. on Nov. 3, the emergency department at Union Hospital will close that night at 11:59 p.m.

The new emergency department is located on the first floor of a brand-new building and is three times larger than the current Salem ER. It has an expansive lobby, private check-in areas, and a total of 65 private patient bays. There are separate areas for pediatric care and behavioral health care.

"Every single thing from a patient's perspective is better," Roberts said.

The new emergency department's address is on Dove Avenue at the back of the hospital and can be accessed from Jefferson Avenue.

Right next door to the emergency department is the Epstein Center for Behavioral Health, a 120-bed facility dedicated to mental health care in the former Spaulding Hospital. Thirty of the beds will be for pediatric patients, and another 30 for geriatric patients.

Hospital officials said the Epstein Center will be the largest inpatient psychiatric service embedded in an acute care hospital in Massachusetts. The center includes a rooftop garden for adults, and a courtyard area where children can play basketball and floor hockey and take part in other activities.

"For a lot of kids the physical release is really important," Roberts said.

Roberts said patients at the Epstein Center can also be treated for medical conditions without having to be transferred, as happens at other mental health facilities that are not part of an acute care hospital. The center will be staffed with medical doctors, while specialists can simply walk over from the hospital, he said.

"I just think it's a unique model when you can stay in the best place because we bring the care to you," Roberts said.

The Epstein Center was built with the help of a $5 million donation from Arthur Epstein, a former Marblehead resident and long-time supporter of the hospital.

Roberts credited Partners HealthCare, the hospital's parent company, with investing in behavioral health care, which he said is not a big money-maker for hospitals.

"This entire building project is one that North Shore Medical Center never would have afforded," he said.

The new medical floor includes 24 private in-patient rooms and is located on the fourth floor of the emergency department building. The rooms are for general medical patients as well as cardiac patients recovering from procedures. There is also an area for oncology patients, which was funded with money raised by the annual North Shore Cancer Walk.

Roberts said the new medical floor and behavioral health center will reduce wait times for patients in an ER bed waiting for an in-patient bed to become available. Wait times are currently up to two or three days for patients with behavioral health issues, he said.

"We can get them to a bed sooner," Roberts said. "The impact is going to be extraordinary."

The hospital is also making improvements to the front, or Highland Avenue, side of the campus, including leveling off the sloped parking lot, creating a patient drop-off area outside the upper entrance, and adding parking spaces, trees and signs to help people find their way.

Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@gloucestertimes.com.

North Shore Medical Center expansion timeline

Tuesday — Ribbon-cutting ceremony in Salem, 10 a.m.

Saturday — Community open house to celebrate the new facilities, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 1 — Epstein Center for Behavioral Health opens in Salem for adult patients. Pediatric and geriatric psychiatry patients will move in over the following week

Monday, Oct. 28 — Pingree Floor of 24 additional private patient rooms opens

Sunday, Nov. 3 — New emergency department opens in Salem

Sunday, Nov. 3 — North Shore Medical Center Union Hospital in Lynn closes

Monday, Nov. 4 — NSMC Urgent Care Center opens in Lynn

Spring 2020 — New Medical Village opens in Lynn

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