Emergency Rooms Possible, Without the Hospital Wait: Alaska Regional applies for beds

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One Christmas Eve several years ago, Big AK Kid spent a little too much time nuzzling the cats at his grandparents’ house, located about 20 miles east of Seattle, Washington. Prone to kitty-triggered asthma, I had dosed him up with antihistamines and tried my best to keep feline presence to a minimum, but, as cats and kids often do, the group gravitated toward each other and by 10 p.m., the child was wheezing in a rather frightening sort of way. With the inhaler mysteriously nowhere to be found (why, oh why do these things never stay in one place?), I bundled him up and prepared to make a long and scary journey to the nearest emergency room of which I was aware, 10 miles away.

“Oh, you don’t need to go that far,” my mother said, waving her hands toward the general area of downtown Issaquah. “There’s a new place, now.”

That new place was a freestanding emergency department (or FSED), right in my old hometown, complete with everything we needed for a status asthmaticus event in a small boy. No long drive needed.

Within the hour, my son was treated and pampered (it was a holiday, after all), medicated and soothed. Professional, knowledgable, and definitely medically-proficient at handling this obvious emergency, the Swedish Medical Center FSED staff had us on our way in time for Santa Claus to pop down the chimney. Should my son have worsened, however, the FSED staff were fully prepared to transport him to the nearest hospital for an overnight stay, having communicated with local EMS crews, who were on standby.

Traveling with kids is full of moments like this, and I was thankful in a moment of panic that I wasn’t required to a) call an ambulance myself or b) drive 30 minutes to an emergency department in another city.

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Alaska Regional Hospital is leading the way with a proposal to establish two such FSED facilities in the greater Anchorage area by 2017; one in Eagle River, and one in South Anchorage. Both could prove valuable for traveling families, with easier access, fewer minutes (or hours) of wait time, and faster transition back to the reason folks came here in the first place – F.U.N.

While a fair bit of controversy surrounds the concept in Alaska (two hospitals vying for a predetermined number of beds only the State of Alaska can release), I am confident supporting Alaska Regional’s emergency rooms is the right decision for Anchorage. Open 24/7, accepting of everyone regardless of an ability to pay or Medicare status (many urgent care clinics do not accept Medicare patients – the required form of insurance for people over 65), FSED facilities could be a welcome transition for those in outlying areas of the city, and most especially for those visiting who may not want, or need, a full-service hospital visit, as most emergency room visits tend to be.

Want to know more? Here’s an interesting story from the Alaska Dispatch News that outlines well the concept.

A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 18, at Z.J. Loussac Library’s Wilda Marsten Theatre (3600 Denali Street) before the State of Alaska makes a determination for the emergency room beds.

 

 

 

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