Swedish emergency room services to relocate July 14

July 12, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Swedish Medical Center administrators and physicians plan to transfer emergency room services from the standalone facility near Lake Sammamish to Swedish/Issaquah early July 14.

The relocation is poised to unfold in a careful choreography as the initial phase of the hospital opens to patients. Dispatchers plan to direct ambulances to the hospital ER in the Issaquah Highlands starting at midnight.

“We’re doing this transition in the middle of the night because that is our lull point. Typically, the lowest census in any emergency department is that kind of 3-4 a.m. range,” said Dr. John Milne, a Swedish emergency physician and Issaquah resident. “Most sane people are asleep.”

The portion of the hospital for inpatients does not come online until November.

Jeff Griffin, Eastside Fire & Rescue deputy chief of operations, said agency administrators continue to update ambulance crews about the change. EFR emergency crews also toured the Swedish/Issaquah ER to prepare for the transition.

“The bottom line is that, for us, we’ll transport to the new facility as soon as it’s ready and able and has the same capabilities,” Griffin said.

Then, as physicians treat and release patients, and the standalone ER empties, some medical staff members and ambulances plan to remain on site as stragglers come to the facility. The plan is for crews to transfer or redirect all patients from the deserted ER to the hospital by 5 a.m.

Timeline

The standalone Swedish Medical Center emergency room near Lake Sammamish is on a carefully choreographed schedule July 14 to transfer ER services to Swedish/Issaquah in the Issaquah Highlands.

Midnight

The hospital and Eastside Fire & Rescue start redirecting ambulance crews from the existing facility to the highlands hospital.

3 a.m.

Most patients should be cleared out of the Lake Sammamish facility by early morning. If patients require additional treatment but do not need to be admitted for a hospital stay, physicians plan to send them to Swedish/Issaquah.

5 a.m.

The plan calls for medical staff members and ambulance crews to shift all remaining patients to the hospital ER by 5 a.m. Staffers plan to remain on site to treat stragglers.

7 a.m.

The standalone ER is due to shut down as staff members’ shift changes. Crews plan to add banners and maps to the facility to direct patients to Swedish/Issaquah.

The week ahead

Hospital administrators plan to keep a triage nurse at the former ER to direct patients to the hospital or call for emergency services.

Milne said some patients, a handful at most, might require transport to Swedish/Issaquah for additional treatment. Some people could be sent to other Swedish hospitals.

‘Making a clean break’

Swedish administrators did not schedule a day shift for July 14. The routine shift change at the ER occurs each day at 7 a.m. — the time officials selected for the shutdown at the standalone facility.

Crews then plan to post banners and signs announcing the closure, as well as maps to Swedish/Issaquah. Milne said a nurse is assigned to the facility for another week to handle triage, direct patients to the highlands or, for emergencies, alert 911.

“We had a lot of internal discussions about, do we try and keep the existing campus open for a week, a month, a period of time to help people transition?” he said. “We finally decided that the Band-Aid approach of just making a clean break — rip it off fast and get people transitioned — was the best solution.”

In the days before the transition, hospital administrators sent letters to every patient treated at the Issaquah facility since 2005 and purchased advertising to educate residents about the relocation. Still, concerns linger about the upcoming change.

“We’ve been careful to try not to message too loudly, too early about this move, because we didn’t want people to get the wrong impression, that that facility was closed,” Milne said.

The protocols ambulance crews use to determine a destination depend on a patient’s injury or illness. Crews race to the facility most-equipped to handle each problem.

In addition to the standalone emergency room, EFR transports patients to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and Seattle Children’s.

Some services remain

Swedish holds another 10 years on its lease for the state-owned building. The sleep medicine program operates a specialized space in the building and is remaining at the site.

The standalone ER opened in 2005.

Swedish plans to mothball some equipment from the standalone ER and refurbish other pieces, such as beds, for use elsewhere in the hospital system.

“Because we’re trying to turn one off as we’re turning one on, we’re having to fully stock the emergency department at the new facility and the old one,” Milne said.

Griffin, a Sammamish resident, serves on the Community Advisory Committee formed to guide decisions about Swedish/Issaquah. The facility could serve as a resource for the community if a major earthquake or other disaster strikes, he said.

“We’re very excited to have Swedish opening, because it’s going to add a big safety factor to the community in the event of a disaster or other traffic issues where we can’t get people to hospitals because of road closures or damage to the road system,” he added. “It’ll give us some capability here that’s very close to home.”

In the meantime, hospital leaders plan to ask Community Advisory Committee members about possible uses for the ER space.

“There’s still going to be a Swedish presence in that location for many years to come. That’s not going to change,” Milne said. “The question is, what is the mix of services that are there? It’s really going to be dictated in large part by the community.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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