Nearly four years after receiving state approval, Piedmont Columbus Regional’s Northside Campus is ready to prove itself a bonafide life-saver with a new emergency department which makes its debut at high noon on Monday.
The planning and construction and mock drills all have been completed, with the 12,000-square-foot department preparing to accept thousands of patients in the coming year. It is located off Veterans Parkway in north Columbus and is part of a facility that years ago was known as Hughston Hospital, a hub for orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation.
Michael Zimmermann, executive director of operations and emergency services at Piedmont Columbus Regional, said Thursday that his staff is excited to get started serving the community in the brand new emergency department. He also oversees the Midtown emergency operations, to include the pediatric emergency room and the adult trauma center, as well as the cardiology and stroke service lines.
“It’s been a lot of planning and effort,” he said. “Our Northside hospital has not had an emergency department before, so there has been a Herculean effort across Piedmont Columbus Regional to get ready and make sure we can care for the very first patient and subsequent patients afterwards.”
Here are questions and answers for those in the Columbus-area who may consider using the new Northside emergency department, which will give the metro area four ERs in all. That includes the Midtown ER and emergency rooms at St. Francis Hospital on Manchester Expressway and Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital on Riverchase Drive in Phenix City.
Q. Where is the Northside Campus emergency room located?
A. It’s at 100 Frist Court, with its entrance off Veterans Parkway between Main Street Village and Hughston Clinic. It also is across Veterans Parkway from the Aldi and Harbor Freight stores.
Q. How large is the emergency department?
A. It was constructed and connected to the Northside Campus hospital and is about 12,000 square feet. It has 10 acuity exam rooms with a 5,800-square-foot shell space already built that can be converted easily to 10 additional exam rooms if needed for a total of 20. But with the flexible space it now has available to it, the new emergency department should be able to handle about 25 patients at any given time. The facility has a 40-space parking lot.
Q. Can the new emergency department handle any type of patient?
A. Yes, Zimmerman said, the facility can take care of any type of emergency. Some patients involved in cardiac arrest, stroke and severe vehicle accidents may be stabilized first at Northside before being transferred by ambulance to other hospitals in the area.
It was in 2014 that Piedmont Columbus Regional began performing therapeutic cardiac catheterization procedures at its Midtown Campus, which involves the installation of heart stents in patients to reopen clogged arteries. The health system also at the time reached an agreement with East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Ala., to receive any patients in need of emergency heart surgery.
Obstetrics patients about to give birth to a child who show up at the Northside ER will be moved to Midtown as well if possible because of its specialized pediatric care and treatment facilities that include a neonatal intensive care unit. However, Zimmermann said Northside is well equipped and staffed to handle labor delivery in an emergency if necessary.
Q. Can anyone use the emergency room at the Northside Campus?
A. Yes. Zimmerman said it will treat anyone regardless of their ability to pay. The city’s emergency departments are always a safety net and ready to provide access for care, he said. The Northside facility will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Q. How has Piedmont Columbus Regional prepared the new ER to accept and treat patients?
A. There have been a series of mock drills over the last two weeks, with entire teams of doctors, nurses and other staff using volunteers during simulated emergency department operations. That has included moving mock “patients,” transferring them and having them arrive by ambulance.
“We’ve been practicing like we’re going to play,” Zimmermann said. “The care team that we have is quite amazing. They’ve been doing a great job with that simulation.”
Q. Will some patients who use the ER and need admittance to a hospital be kept at Northside hospital?
A. Yes. For example, those with pneumonia or with urology problems or requiring general surgery and orthopedic surgery will be admitted to the Northside Campus hospital.
“There are a lot of things we’ll be able to manage here and do it very well,” Zimmermann said.
Q. Will ambulance companies and other emergency personnel know whether or not to take, say, an accident or stroke patient to Northside or to one of the other hospital emergency room’s in the city?
A. Yes. They have been provided a guidance document with criteria on where to take patients, Zimmerman said. Again, cardiac arrest patients or those in severe car accidents with multiple injuries may be taken to the closest emergency department, then stabilized before possibly being transferred by ambulance to a facility that has surgeons and other specialists. Those patients with difficulty breathing, perhaps suffering from pneumonia or diabetes symptoms or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be treated and admitted at the Northside hospital.
Q. How busy does the emergency room expect to be in the coming months as Columbus-area residents become accustomed to it being available to them?
A. Piedmont Columbus Regional estimates the Northside ER should see about 20,000 patient visits in its first year. Northside expects to grow its patient load and services from there.
Q. Will the facility help alleviate long wait times in the city’s other emergency rooms, which can become very crowded at times?
A. It’s very possible. Zimmerman believes the new ER will reduce wait times. He expects more people living in north Columbus and in Harris County to use the Northside Campus simply because it’s closer and can offer a high level of care. Access to the new emergency room also will be very convenient because it is off Veterans Parkway and close to J.R. Allen Parkway and Interstate 185.
“We think that’s going to be a big bonus and blessing for our community because we think it’s going to improve through-put at all of the hospitals in the city, not just our (Piedmont) hospitals,” he said. “We do think there’s going to be a substantial improvement with decreasing wait times and decreasing ED overcrowding.”
Q. In essence, the workload of the hospitals in the city is being spread out?
A. Yes. There are 60 non-emergency patient beds at the Northside Campus, with many of the patients from the new emergency room ultimately filling those rather than rooms at other hospitals in Columbus and Phenix City. As for the emergency department, specifically, with its flexible space it should be able to handle about 25 patients at any given time.
Q. Why should emergency room patients visit Northside rather than other hospital ERs in the city?
A. Zimmerman said he hopes the community will consider it for their health-care needs because of the new emergency department’s state-of-the-art technology and facilities, including enhanced comfort measures for patients at Northside hospital. He also noted the hospital has had multiple accolades through the years, with it being recognized nationally for patient service and quality.