CHATOM, Ala. (WKRG) — A $4.5 million emergency room expansion is about to open where it’s needed most. The new 7,000-square-foot facility doesn’t compare to the old 1,200-square-foot ER.

Just ask Washington County Hospital & Nursing Home CEO Teresa Grimes.

“We now have a great big open room that’s 50×60, we now have shower units for our staff, we have a full kitchen,” said Grimes.

The addition in Chatom brings six new beds and more space to Washington County Hospital. Staff are now able to handle large-scale emergencies and treat COVID-19 patients if needed. That was a task full of challenges during the height of the pandemic.

“I think the pandemic brought to life more than ever whenever we were keeping ventilator patients and we had never owned a ventilator,” said Grimes.

A new helipad will go in soon allowing doctors here to act quickly without having patients transported to other hospitals out of the area. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey cut the ribbon to the new ER Tuesday, July 19.

“Just committed to doing all we can to help rural Alabama have quality healthcare. I’m glad we’re here and we’re able to help find the resources to help facilitate this,” said Ivey.