Commissioners Want ER To Remain In Nelsonville

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Athens County officials want OhioHealth to include an emergency room in an outpatient facility to be built in Nelsonville.

On Monday, OhioHealth announced it will close Doctors Hospital Nelsonville – which has an emergency room – after the new facility is built.

The commissioners voted Tuesday to send a letter to OhioHealth asking that the outpatient facility include an emergency room, and asking for a meeting with OhioHealth officials to discuss it.

"We'd be happy to meet with them," LaMar Wyse, chief operating officer at Doctors Hospital Nelsonville, told The Athens Messenger, but said that patient numbers are not high enough to make an emergency room viable.
Commissioner Charlie Adkins said not having an emergency room in Nelsonville is matter of public health and safety, since taking emergency patients by squad to OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital in Athens, or possibly to Hocking Valley Community Hospital in Logan, will take longer.

Commissioner Lenny Eliason said making those trips might also necessitate adding another ambulance and crew to both the Nelsonville and Glouster stations of Athens County Emergency Medical Service.

"That's my initial thought," Eliason said, explaining that coverage would be needed in Glouster and Nelsonville while squads are going to O'Bleness.

OhioHealth has said construction is expected to begin in 2015 on the new outpatient facility, and it will take 18 to 24 months to complete. The Doctors Hospital emergency room will remain open until the new facility is completed, according to a news release Monday by OhioHealth.

"There may be some wiggle room to talk to them," said Athens County EMS Chief Rick Callebs, who brought up the topic at Tuesday's commissioners meeting.

Callebs said having the emergency room at Doctors Hospital "has been a tremendous resource."

During Tuesday's meeting, Callebs estimated the number of emergency transports to Doctors Hospital Nelsonville, but later gave a much lower figure after reviewing billing information for the first half of 2014. Callebs said he expects Athens County EMS to make between 800-900 trips to Doctors Hospital ER this year. In 2012, there were 917, he said.

Callebs said that after a squad responds to a scene in Nelsonville it can take less then five minutes to reach Doctors Hospital, while the drive time to Athens would be 15 to 20 minutes. The squad would be tied up during the trip to Athens, and during the time spent at the hospital and for the trip back.

He said it sometimes takes 10 to 15 minutes to transfer a patient to a hospital bed if the emergency room at O'Bleness is busy. Callebs and the commissioners expressed concern about the impact on the O'Bleness emergency room after Doctors Hospital closes and emergency squad runs go to Athens instead.

The new outpatient facility will not be open 24 hours per day, OhioHealth has said. Exact services have not yet been determined, but a news release from OhioHealth said that typically they include urgent care, imaging, laboratory services and physician offices.

Wyse said the emergency room at Doctors Hospital Nelsonville has been seeing about 10,000 patients a year, which is below the 15,000 to 20,000 that OhioHealth planners want to see for an emergency room.

Wyse said the emergency room numbers at Doctors Hospital Nelsonville were not expected to increase, particularly since there is a national trend of declining emergency room visits.

"We just don't see the numbers there to make that viable," Wyse said of having an emergency room at the new Nelsonville facility.