Free-standing Emergency Department at Strong West awaits state’s OK

By on August 4, 2014
Bryan O’Donovan in the unfinished Operating Room 3; the IT equipment is already installed. This is one of three rooms in the Surgery Center.

Bryan O’Donovan in the unfinished Operating Room 3; the IT equipment is already installed. This is one of three rooms in the Surgery Center.

It’s an event that’s being celebrated by members of the greater Brockport and Orleans County communities – the anticipated opening this month of a free-standing Emergency Department at Strong West in Brockport.

“We are working closely with the state to get the final approval to open the off-campus ED and the Ambulatory Surgery Center,” says Bryan O’Donovan, administrator of Strong West. “We are eager to switch over from an urgent care to an ED, to restore emergency services to the community, however we need to wait until we receive NYS approval.”

The area has been without an emergency department since the spring of 2013 when Lakeside Memorial Hospital closed.
Brockport Volunteer Ambulance Corps President David Rice says the loss of Lakeside Memorial Hospital was significant for the community.

“With the opening of Strong West’s free-standing Emergency Department, the Brockport area will recover some of the much needed medical services that were lost with the Lakeside closure,” Rice explains. “Having the ability to treat lower priority emergencies will be beneficial to Brockport residents as they will no longer have to travel 15-20 minutes to another hospital for basic treatment. Strong West’s opening will also reduce patient transport times for the Ambulance Corps and allow us to be back in service and available for additional calls in the Brockport area sooner.”

Brockport Mayor Margay Blackman is very happy about the impending opening of the ED at Strong West.

“It’s little short of wonderful that our critical health care services are coming back to Brockport under URMC/Strong,” she says. “Our health care services couldn’t have a better overseer than Strong.”

SW main entranceTown of Sweden resident Christine Hunt says the community should have its own ED for the closeness it affords, as the next nearest emergency room is located at Unity Hospital 20-25 minutes away.

“It’s something that’s needed,” she says, “especially with the college. It’s a really valuable thing for our community.”

Hunt also notes that being able to get to an emergency department quickly can be re-assuring for those in a frightening situation whether they end up needing medical attention or not. “People panic,” she observes, “then they’re scared.”

One Hamlin resident said having an ED close by will be re-assuring for her as she and her husband oversee the care of her 95-year old mother-in-law.

The opening of the ED in Brockport, “… can’t come soon enough,” she said.

Emergency response officials in Orleans County are especially thrilled to have an ED returning to Brockport.

Holley Fire Department Chief Peter D. Hendrickson, Jr. says, “… the Holley ambulance has struggled … having an ED back in the area will help us a lot … it will make a huge difference.”

Hendrickson said the amount of time for ambulance calls jumped from 1 1/2 hours to 3-4 hours when Lakeside closed. He explains that it is helpful to volunteers, who will not have to routinely drive into the city.

He is also pleased that UR Medicine/Strong is operating the facility. “Strong will do what they can to make sure it is a success,” Hendrickson says.

The Reception area, with Lisa Rowley and Tina Denton as receptionists.

The Reception area, with Lisa Rowley and Tina Denton as receptionists.

Hendrickson and Chris Chilson, 1st Assistant Chief of the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Department, say the closing of Lakeside was more far-reaching than just the eastern portion of Orleans County.

“When Lakeside closed, the central part of the county was also affected,” the two say.

Hendrickson notes Strong West also brings with it many physician affiliates. “It’s a win-win,” he says.

“Strong is a big hospital,” Chilson says, “they will make it work. It will be a convenience to have the ED a lot closer, even for the patient.”

As with other local emergency responders, Chilson points out that the close proximity of Brockport makes it easier for volunteers who have families and full-time jobs, and who have been facing long turnovers since the closing of Lakeside.

“If you get a midnight call, you get back home at three or four in the morning and then have to get up and go to work,” he explains.

Both Hendrickson and Chilson say local ambulance corps and fire departments are losing volunteers and shorter turn around times can help attract new members.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who represents Orleans County and the Brockport area, says the Strong West ED will be one of only a handful in the state and the first in the region that will open under the new model of a free-standing ED – where there is no hospital attached to the emergency department.

“It has taken longer than anticipated,” Hawley says. “It’s long overdue and is a great thing for health care for both college students and residents.”

There are state standards for the transfer of patients from a free-standing ED who either need a higher level of care, or who need to be taken immediately to a hospital. The Strong West ED will have 10 treatment beds and three observation beds. In addition to the ED, Strong West is also opening a new, state-of-the-art Surgery Center.

A ribbon-cutting was held Friday, August 1 to “celebrate the Strong West services that have opened over the past ten months along with tours and a family event,” Bryan O’Donovan said.

Photos by Walter Horylev