New emergency room model addresses increased visits and displaced patients

Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-05 16:53:32-05

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. – The number of yearly trips to the emergency room is rising, but the same patients are coming back with the same needs.

North Ottawa Community Health System President and CEO Shelley Yaklin said as many as 4,800 of their annual 18,000 ER visits are preventable; but some patients do not know where else to go, or are uninsured. By 2018, they are projecting 24,000 ER visits.

NOCHS is expanding their ER: construction will break ground in Fall, then open for patients during Spring 2016. It is a new physical design, but Yaklin said it is a new approach to their emergency room healthcare.

“I don’t want to fill the emergency room with 24,000 visits of people who shouldn’t be there,” said Yaklin.

About 20 percent of ER patients Yaklin said have legitimate needs but not an emergency: perhaps they are uninsured, need primary care, or need food and shelter. With the ER expansion, they are changing their model to connect these patients with the services they need.

“We don’t want to just give you that information; we want to coordinate that for you,” said Yaklin. “The other thing is, when you say, ‘Shelleye, I don’t have a doctor,’ well, I’m going to get you a doctor.”

The new ER wing will be 15,486 square feet, and cost $9.67 million; $2.5 million came from community support. Their focus will be emergency medicine, but there will also be space for primary care, social work, and support to help plug patients into the services they need.

“I don’t want to say, ‘you know, we have an organization in town, Love Inc., why don’t you connect with them and maybe they can connect you with some funding resources to buy your medication or help you get your heat turned back on,’” said Yaklin.

The total cost also includes building a second floor to the ER wing, which will add mental health services from another provider. This construction should begin about a year after the ER wing opens Spring 2016.