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UF&Shands announces plans for new freestanding emergency department

Administrators at UF&Shands, the University of Florida Academic Health Center, have announced plans to build a full-service, 911-receiving freestanding emergency department in northwest Gainesville that will provide convenient 24-hour emergency services for local residents with acute illnesses or injuries.

“We are committed to expanding and investing in health resources throughout the community, developing patient-focused medical programs to reach people where they live and work,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., University of Florida senior vice president for health affairs and UF&Shands Health System president. “Expanding our world-class emergency care beyond the main medical campus is part of our overall strategic approach. We’re continually finding ways to improve our patients’ access to the trusted experts and valued services they seek at UF&Shands.”

The 8,500-square-foot freestanding facility will include 10 exam spaces. Staffed by UF board-certified emergency physicians and specially trained Shands nurses, the team will have capacity to annually serve up to 25,000 patients. The building will be equipped with state-of-the-art emergency department technology and resources, including diagnostic and treatment resources such as lab and radiology services (CT, X-ray and ultrasound imaging), which are standard in a hospital-based emergency department.

“Most emergency department patients arrive as walk-in patients seeking prompt care and personal attention. In a family emergency, rather than having to drive across town, our north and northwest area residents will be able to get fast care closer to home with the quality and expertise they expect from UF&Shands,” said Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., M.P.H., UF College of Medicine emergency medicine chair and chief of emergency services for Shands Critical Care Center at UF.

Renovation to an existing building at 8475 NW 39th Ave. will begin in January and should be complete by July. Shands’ overall investment for construction and equipment is approximately $10 million.

The team will treat patients for life-threatening and serious injuries and conditions including respiratory distress, abdominal pain, allergic reaction, food poisoning, orthopaedic injuries and fractures, lacerations and minor burns. Many of these conditions require treatment beyond the capabilities of urgent care centers.

Patients who require further treatment, surgery or inpatient hospitalization ― including patients with major trauma or acute heart attack or stroke ― will be appropriately stabilized and transported to the Shands main campus. The Shands Critical Care Center at UF on Southwest Archer Road (south campus) includes the main Shands Emergency Department and Level I Trauma Center as well as the Shands Chest Pain ER. Across the street (north campus) is the Shands Pediatric ER.

Pediatric patients age 18 and under who arrive at the northwest facility will be immediately assessed and stabilized and, if further care or inpatient hospitalization is necessary, transferred to the Shands main campus.

Shands and county Emergency Medical Services teams will create a plan to ensure that transported patients are taken to the most appropriate emergency service based on the complexity of their condition. When seeking care in a medical emergency, the public should always proceed to the closest emergency department, freestanding or on a medical campus.

North and northwest Gainesville area walk-in patients and those arriving by ambulance who require immediate emergency care and stabilization will benefit from closer proximity to a full-service emergency department.

“Area residents who need emergency care will be able to receive attention quickly at the new location,” Tyndall added. “Our main emergency department at Shands Critical Care Center has a significant focus on high-acuity patients with complex conditions who require specialist care, surgery or hospitalization. This new facility will help us provide more efficient care in two locations.”

Freestanding emergency departments are designed to treat patients in a streamlined manner with minimal wait times compared with hospital-based emergency services.

“We predict that the addition of an off-campus emergency location will result in improved turnaround times at both full-service emergency departments. This will allow us to better meet our patients’ needs and ensure their satisfaction with their emergency care experience,” said Edward Jimenez, Shands at UF senior vice president and chief operating officer.

There is significant population growth predicted for northwest Gainesville and the surrounding area, and residential and commercial development planned for the Springhill area around Northwest 39th Avenue west towards the interstate.

“We are rapidly changing the face of health care for people in our community,” Jimenez said. “We’re evolving and responding to patients’ needs and preferences throughout our community. One of the benefits of living in north central Florida is access to outstanding health care, and having academic medical services with world-class experts now more available throughout the community.”

What is a freestanding emergency department?

A freestanding emergency department (FED) is a full-service, walk-in and 911-receiving emergency care medical facility that is community based and not located in a hospital or on a hospital campus; and it is fully equipped and staffed to provide comprehensive emergency care for patients with acute illnesses or injuries.

An FED is usually located in an easily accessible part of the community to serve as an alternative to the emergency department located on a hospital campus. It is staffed by physicians and nursing staff who have specialized training or competency in emergency medicine and it offers the same state-of-the-art technology, resources and expertise as an emergency department at a hospital.

With onsite labs and imaging services, FEDs usually offer shorter wait times and quicker turnaround times for care compared to traditional, on-site hospital emergency departments. Patients can access care closer to home, and quickly receive immediate assessment, diagnosis, stabilization and treatment for emergency medical needs. Patients who require more complex care from a multi-disciplinary team – including specialist or multidisciplinary care, surgery or hospitalization – can be stabilized at the local FED then transported to the emergency department at a hospital.

Is the freestanding emergency department model a new trend in health care?

FEDs are becoming an increasingly common model of emergency care throughout the United States. They make emergency care more easily accessible to community residents and are appealing because of the capacity to provide faster and more efficient care than may be available in a busy hospital emergency department setting.

Freestanding emergency departments are also a solution to help relieve emergency department overcrowding by providing choice, improving access and helping to better distribute emergency patient volumes throughout the community.

How is a freestanding emergency department different from an urgent care center?

Urgent care centers are not “911-receiving” – meaning they do not receive patients as a result of 911 emergency calls and EMS transportation – and they do not offer the same complexity of services as FEDs, such as labs and imaging services.

Staffing: How is an emergency department team different from an urgent care center team?

Full-service emergency departments are staffed by physicians who have training or competency in emergency medicine.

What conditions should be directed to the on-campus (Southwest Archer Road) emergency department?

Patients who have a potentially serious or life-threatening heart condition, heart attack, stroke or traumatic injury will be taken by EMS or transported to Shands Critical Care Center for further evaluation and treatment at the Shands Emergency Department and Level I Trauma Center, Shands Chest Pain ER or Shands Pediatric ER.

What are criteria for care at an emergency department?

Nobody will be turned away for emergency treatment at any Shands emergency department. We do not discriminate and we accept all emergency patients, regardless of their insurance status, Medicaid or Medicare status, or ability to pay for care.

Emergency departments are bound by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act to examine and offer stabilizing treatment and/or transfer to a hospital any patient who is in an emergency medical condition and requires care. The act applies to all participating hospitals under Medicare.

Note: If a patient presents at the Shands freestanding emergency department with a medical condition or injury that would be better served at our main Shands Critical Care Center emergency facility, the team will quickly examine and stabilize the patient and expedite their transport.

Are FEDs as safe as traditional emergency departments?

FEDs must meet the same criteria as emergency departments located in a hospital or on a hospital campus to be licensed by the state of Florida. Patients can rest assured that they will receive the same level of quality care and attention as they would in any other emergency department setting.

The Shands freestanding emergency department team will have quick access to our diverse resources throughout UF&Shands, the University of Florida Academic Health Center. These resources include extensive multidisciplinary expertise – physicians trained in more than 100 medical specialty and sub-specialty areas of care and expert Shands nursing teams – as well as Shands Critical Care Center Emergency Department and Level I Trauma Center, Shands Chest Pain ER and Shands Pediatric ER.

Shands Emergency Department Statistics – Fiscal Year 2012:

Of 84,131 total emergency patient visits to Shands at UF in FY2012:

  • 22,893 (27 percent) resulted in hospitalization

  • 60,629 (72 percent) were walk-in patients

  • 22,972 (27 percent) were transported by EMS ambulance or transferred by other means

  • 2,514 (3 percent) were trauma cases served at the Shands Level I Trauma Center

  • 9,507 (11 percent) were considered minor care cases that likely could have been treated by an urgent care facility or primary care provide.

The new Shands freestanding emergency department will have the capacity to serve up to 25,000 patients each year.

UF&Shands Emergency and After Hours Services Include:

Shands Critical Care Center at UF

1515 S.W. Archer Road (south campus)

Shands Emergency Department & Level I Trauma Center

Shands Chest Pain ER

Shands Pediatric ER

1600 S.W. Archer Road (north campus)

Pediatrics After Hours

(Located within the Shands Pediatric ER)

UF&Shands OrthoCare (including evening and weekend walk-in and appointment hours)

3450 Hull Road

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