CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Nearly five years after closing the St. Francis Emergency Room, and replacing it with an Urgent Care, it soon will reopen with a new goal in mind.
“Our St. Francis campus has remained a very viable part of our health system since we came together 14 years ago,” Chief Operating Officer of Thomas Health, Brian Ulery, told WSAZ. “As we look at what the needs of the community are going to be here in 2022, we looked out and we saw that there are significant wait times in all emergency rooms throughout the community — sometime beginning in the late morning hours through the early evening hours.”
Thomas Health made the announcement on Wednesday.
It was in April of 2016 that WSAZ reported Thomas Health was transforming the St. Francis emergency room into an urgent care. Ulery said this was due to the lack of patients the then 24-hour emergency room would see on a day-to-day basis.
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“Being the small community hospital, we have to look at where our limited finances are able to provide the most care, to the most people,” Ulery said. “Having an emergency room, that was 24 hours a day, in the middle of Charleston when the large safety net hospital was just several blocks down the road didn’t make sense when we were only seeing two to three patients after 9 p.m.”
He said with long wait times in emergency rooms and ambulance traffic across the community, this move should help alleviate some of those waits.
“The emergency room care that we’re providing there, would be the same care you’d get if you walked into our emergency room here at Thomas. The one big change that we will have by reopening the emergency department is our ability to accept ambulance traffic from Kanawha County.”
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The new E.R. will be non-24-hour, which Ulery says is an attraction to workers during a nationwide shortage.
“One of the things about being a non-24-hour emergency department is it’s actually an incredibly attractive place to work with people with experience,” he said. “We, in our planning, didn’t think we would be as far as we (are) with the number of staff already employed for it, so we’re actually already ahead of our plan.”
The facility will be able to see between 30 and 40 patients per day and have 12 emergency room beds that will be ready.
“This is really exciting to all of us and especially those of us that have been on the St. Francis campus. I started out on the St. Francis campus, so it’s very exciting for me and it’s exciting for the system to be able to offer this service to the community,” Jennie Kahn, chief nursing officer of Thomas Health, told WSAZ. “That’s what St. Francis has always done. We’ve taken care of our community, and this is what we’re going to continue to do.”
The hours of the new E.R. will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, which Thomas Health officials say is the peak times for patients.
“With this emergency room coming back during the historically busiest times of the day, (it’ll) be able to decompress the other emergency rooms,” Chief Medical Officer of Thomas Health, Matthew Upton said. “This emergency room benefits everybody, it benefits all the hospitals in town, all the emergency rooms and urgent cares in town, it’s another choice for patients.”
Upton said the long wait times could be COVID-19 related, as more patients are needing care.
“This will give us another place for patients to go to — hopefully lessen the waits, not only at our emergency room, but all emergency rooms in the area.”
Thomas Health officials are hoping the facility will be open sometime in February.
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