Commissioner: No Emergency Room In Nelsonville’s Future

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OhioHealth is firm in its decision not to have an emergency room in Nelsonville in the future, according to Athens County Commission President Lenny Eliason.

“That decision is over with,” Eliason said Tuesday after meeting with OhioHealth officials.

In June, OhioHealth announced it will be closing Doctors Hospital Nelsonville, but not before a new urgent care facility is built. OhioHealth has said construction is expected to begin in 2015, and it will take 18 to 24 months to complete. The Doctors Hospital emergency room will remain open until the new facility is completed, OhioHealth officials have said.

Immediately after the announcement, the county commissioners voted to write a letter to OhioHealth asking that the new facility include an emergency room. At the time, county officials said they have safety concerns about the increased time it will take to transport patients to OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital, and concerns about problems it would create for Athens County EMS to provide coverage for the Nelsonville area while ambulances from there are going to and from O’Bleness.

On Monday, Eliason met with OhioHealth officials in lieu of writing the letter.

Eliason said OhioHealth officials indicated that the vast majority of patients that come into the Doctors Hospital emergency room need urgent care, not emergency care.

Athens County EMS Chief Rick Callebs has said EMS can’t transport patients to an urgent care facility, according to Eliason, who said Callebs has been asked to research whether that is a legal restriction or just protocol.

“We’re looking at whether we can transport to urgent care or not,” Eliason said.

He also said OhioHealth and Athens County EMS will be sharing data on the number of people using the emergency room and where they come from. He said the analysis should help predict the impact that closing the emergency room will have on Athens County EMS.

Eliason said he asked if OhioHealth would be willing to help the county with increased EMS costs it could face because of the decision to close the emergency room.

“They didn’t say no — they didn’t say yes, either,” Eliason commented.

LaMar Wyse, chief operating officer at Doctors Hospital Nelsonville, has previously told The Messenger that 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. Those numbers are not expected to change.

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