The first month’s visits to UCHealth’s 24-hour emergency room, pharmacy and laboratory testify to the importance of new services in the area.
“We’ve had a lot of walk-ins and positive feedback,” said Andrew Harmon, pharmacy manager for UCHealth Northern Colorado emergency services.
The UCHealth Emergency Room, which includes the only 24-hour pharmacy and lab in south Fort Collins, opened in late October at Harmony Road and Snow Mesa Drive.
“The pharmacy is a huge benefit to the patients, as they are able to fill their prescriptions right then and there,” said ER Nurse Manager Adriana Heins. “And it’s beneficial for us to have a pharmacist on site to reconcile patient medications and help with the more critically ill patients.”
Very few outpatient pharmacies have a pharmacist on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Harmon said. This becomes even more beneficial when a parent has a sick child or loved one late at night, as they don’t have to drive around town for medications, he said.
UCHealth hired six new full-time pharmacists and four pharmacy technicians to operate the new location, and average daily visit numbers are higher than projected. The new location also provides UCHealth employees, along with the general public, the convenience of 90-day prescription fills, Harmon said.
The Harmony Laboratory relocated from the Redstone building at UCHealth’s Harmony Campus across Snow Mesa Drive into the ER facility.
“We have gotten positive feedback about the building,” said Robyn Sorrell, UCHealth Northern Colorado interim laboratory director. “Patients like the flow. It’s more efficient for blood draws, as the outpatient area was designed with the patient in mind, with fewer steps for patients and staff.”
Sorrell said the laboratory’s busiest time continues to be during daytime hours.
“We are starting to see an increase in the number of patients utilizing the service in the after-hour times, but the largest volume is still during the day hours,” she said. “We want to stress to the community that our service is 24 hours and not just when they need ER care. There is little to no wait time between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., and we are open weekends and holidays for all outpatient laboratory services.”
The lab is in the process of adding services, including outpatient electrocardiograms, employer worker compensation services and secure blood draws for law enforcement agencies.
“Before, when law enforcement needed a secure blood draw, they’d have to go through the emergency room. Now they don’t have to because of our 24/7 lab service,” Sorrell said. “And then if the patient does need medical care or treatment, the ER is right there.”
And with the addition of ER patients, the number of laboratory visits has increased since the move, she said. Expanding the laboratory hours also has created opportunities for the lab’s scientists and phlebotomists to take on more work, including some from UCHealth Metro Denver in the near future. UCHealth hired four additional medical lab scientists and four additional phlebotomists to help cover the evening and night shifts.
The new emergency room’s projected first month’s volume was on target, and it met its patient wait-time goal, according to Heins.
In November, the new facility saw approximately 700 walk-in patients, as well as 22 patients who arrived by ambulance and two patients who were brought to the ER by local police. The average patient wait time was seven minutes.
Within its first 30 days, the ER had one AirLink transfer to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora and provided help to victims of sexual assault.
UCHealth’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at Medical Center of the Rockies (MCR) expanded to provide a second location for victims at the new ER.
“This gives victims in the Fort Collins area more convenient access than going to the SANE location at MCR,” said Russ Woolley, vice president of operations for UCHealth Northern Colorado.
SANE nurses provide adult and pediatric medical examinations for sexual assaults using compassionate methods. The medical exam treats injuries, tests for pregnancy, addresses sexually transmitted diseases, and collects forensic evidence for use now or later. Patients also receive counseling resources.
The new ER is staffed with board-certified physicians and helps patients who have emergencies such as complex fractures or bones protruding through the skin, head injuries or sudden, very severe headaches or loss of vision, intoxication, overdose or attempted suicide, serious lacerations, severe bleeding or poisoning.
Heins reminds patients that UCHealth also has an urgent care facility west of Snow Mesa Drive — open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — for patients with less-than-serious health issues and concerns such as animal bites, headaches, lacerations requiring a few stitches, minor burns, sprains, strains, possible broken bones, sore throats, coughs, ear infections, fever, flu symptoms, and worker compensation injuries.
People should always call 911 if they are experiencing chest pain or other heart attack symptoms. The new ER also receives ambulances.
“Our urgent care continues to be a great place to go for minor bumps and bruises,” said Alyssa Stroup, clinical director for UCHealth’s ERs in northern Colorado. “But now, just up the road is a full-capability ER to meet those more serious needs.”