KINGSPORT — Wellmont Health System’s proposed freestanding emergency department at Boones Creek should be treated as any other ED, according to a North Carolina ambulance service spokesman.
He said that means, in a nutshell, that it would be eligible to receive the same type of patient transports as a community hospital ED.
Jeff Hammerstein, district chief and public information officer for the Wake County Emergency Medical Services in Raleigh, N.C., spoke to a group of about 20 people Friday morning at Holston Valley Medical Center.
Wake County, with a population of 850,000 and about 860 square miles, has two freestanding EDs operated by WakeMed — WakeMed North and WakeMed Apex — and two more proposed by the competing University of North Carolina system.
“It’s a real emergency department,” Hammerstein said of the concept of a stand-alone emergency department such as the WakeMed North operation Wellmont officials toured with reporters in November. He said they are far from a “Popsicle stand” or “Band-Aid” stand.
He said freestanding EDs are evaluated as appropriate for some patients, while others — including burn victims and those who have been resuscitated from heart attacks — would go to a higher level of service.
Pat Kane, senior vice president of marketing and communications, said Wellmont asked Hammerstein to address the group of mostly Wellmont ED officials from Holston Valley and Bristol Regional. The event also was videotaped for later viewing by Bristol ED officials, Kane said.
“About 90 percent of the people walk in and walk out,” Kane said of expected traffic at the ED.
The other 10 percent would be brought in by ambulance.
Hammerstein said that in 2007, Wake County EMS transported 47,892 patients, and of those 2,860 went to WakeMed North.
“We need to include EMS from day one,” Hammerstein told the group, and Kane after the meeting said Wellmont is working to inform and educate all area EMS providers about the proposed ED.
The ED component of the Wellmont Emergency Care and Diagnostic Center — just off Interstate 26 adjoining Christian Church Road, Boone Station Road and Lake Park Drive — will undergo a certificate of need (CON) hearing March 26 before the Health Services and Development Agency in Nashville.
Competing Mountain States Health Alliance, based in Johnson City, is opposing the CON, saying the ED is not needed because of existing facilities in the region.
If a patient gets to Boones Creek and needs a higher level of care than is available, Kane said a Wellmont One helicopter would transfer patients to the hospital of their choice, including MSHA facilities.
Hammerstein said it was rare but not unheard of for his EMS service to transport a patient from a stand-alone ED to another facility.
The Boones Creek ED would operate under the license of Holston Valley, Tennessee’s third-busiest ED with about 85,000 patients a year.
Kane said the ED is designed to provide “quality care without longer wait times” for people in the Sullivan County and Kingsport area around Interstate 81 and Eastern Star Road and Washington County residents in the greater Boones Creek area, which is growing in population.
The 11-bed ED and imaging center are to be a one-story, 30,000-square-foot building, with another two-story, 20,000-square-foot building to have diagnostics, laboratories and room for 12 physicians. The doctors will be specialists and primary care physicians, with Cardiovascular Associates, Holston Medical Group and Wellmont Physician Services so far committed.
Kane said that whatever the CON ruling is March 26 in Nashville, he expects an appeal to be filed and settled within an 18-month window.
The $41 million project for Wellmont would be about $20 million paid for a building up front, and then another $21 million in lease payments for 20 years.