South Campus Hospital emergency room open

Health: Okotoks urgent care hasn't seen drop in patients

By: Darlene Casten

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 05:23 pm

Foothills resident and VP of the South Health Campus, Lori Anderson, stands outside the hospital's emergency department, which opened Jan. 14.
Foothills resident and VP of the South Health Campus, Lori Anderson, stands outside the hospital's emergency department, which opened Jan. 14.
Darlene Casten/OWW

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The long-awaited South Health Campus emergency department opened Jan. 14.

The emergency room deals with some cases that can’t be handled at Okotoks Urgent Care Department, but patient numbers haven’t dropped at the Okotoks Health and Wellness Centre since the emergency room in Calgary opened.

The hospital is located in the south Calgary in Auburn Bay and is staffed to handle up to 200 patients a day, with 70 registered nurses and nine paramedics on staff. There are between one to five doctors in the emergency room throughout the day and a pediatrician on from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

The week before the south campus emergency department opened Okotoks urgent care saw between 65 and 107 patients daily and the following week there was little change as between 68 and 93 patients were treated.

The South Health Campus has seen more than 100 patients every day since it’s opening and has treated as many as 150 patients in one day.

The hospital is expected to get busier as more people become aware the emergency room is open.

Alberta Health officials said they do track where their patients come from, but said it is too early to say how many foothills residents have used the new emergency department in Calgary.

Alberta Health Services spokesperson Bruce Conway said it is still too early to tell how the new hospital will impact use of Okotoks urgent care and said there are no changes planned for the local care centre.

He said people living in the Okotoks area should still access the urgent care centre first, unless they feel their condition is life threatening.

“Its always recommended you go to the closest hospital for care,” Conway said.

Lori Anderson, vice-president of the South Health Campus, said the emergency department is equipped to deal with some injuries and illnesses that can’t be treated at Okotoks Urgent Care.

“Urgent care is for patients that don’t have life threatening injuries,” Anderson said. “We would see people with critical or severe illnesses.”

If an ambulance is called, paramedics decide where the patient is taken, based on their symptoms, Anderson said.

One of the benefits of the new emergency department is a shorter trip for people involved in serious motor vehicle collisions, or those with other serious illnesses, she said, although some cases will still be sent to other Calgary hospitals that have specialized departments. For example, people believed to be having a stroke are sent to Foothills Hospital.

The South Campus will be able to take on a larger variety of cases in the future as other departments in the hospital open in phases.

Some inpatient beds are slated to open this spring, along with operating rooms, an ICU and this fall a women’s health program will be up and running, allowing woman to deliver their babies at the new hospital. Anderson said they are expecting as many as 2,500 babies being born at the South Health Campus every year.

That could relieve pressure at the High River Hospital, where the number of deliveries has increased over the years. According to the High River and District Health Foundation 550 babies were born at the hospital last year.

It is also hoped the opening of the new emergency room will shorten wait times at all Calgary hospitals.

At the South Health Campus they have opened a unit to deal with emergency patients who may need a longer stay, called the rapid access unit.

The 20 beds are for people who need treatment and observation for up to 48 hours. The idea is those people who don’t need to be admitted to an inpatient bed will be moved out of emergency, freeing up a spot for someone else in the emergency department.

Terry Smith, South Health Campus emergency department manager, said the system is unique in the province and possibly in the whole country and said it is working well so far.

“Its an innovative wonder from an emergency standpoint,” Smith said.

The rapid access unit will go a long way in meeting Alberta Health’s goal of releasing short-term patients within four hours of attending a hospital, or having someone admitted within eight hours, he said.

Alberta Health Services posts Calgary emergency room wait times on its website at www.albertahealthservices.ca/4770.asp where a phone app with wait times can also be downloaded.


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