St. Elizabeth’s Hospital nursing manager Timothy Swain watched the patient turn red, then blue, then purple, then a color he’s never seen before. The man’s wife had driven him to the emergency room. He was having a massive heart attack.
It’s situations like that when minutes and emergency medical care can mean the difference between life and death, said Swain, who manages the emergency department for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. The man survived, but he risked his life by not calling 911, Swain said.
If the man had called 911, which emergency room would first responders have taken him to? There are multiple choices in the metro-east, from Memorial Hospitals in Belleville and Shiloh to Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville, and in November, St. Elizabeth’s in O’Fallon.
Regardless of which emergency room is closest, it’s up to patients to decide where they want to go, according to Mark Corley, regional director for Abbott EMS. If a patient is unable to make the decision, responders take them to the nearest emergency room.
Different St. Clair County emergency rooms offer services of varying capacities. All four emergency rooms, including Memorial hospitals, Touchette and the future St. Elizabeth’s, are capable of accepting helicopters and feature pediatric physicians, around-the-clock access to inpatient services, decontamination rooms, behavioral health rooms, cafes and gift shops, and television and climate control.
St. Elizabeth’s in O’Fallon will have 25 emergency rooms. The new emergency department includes four triage rooms and three trauma rooms that can each handle up to two patients, as well as four behavioral health rooms and a secure holding room for patients in police custody. The Belleville St. Elizabeth’s location only has 21 emergency rooms.
The new hospital in O’Fallon has some features newer hospitals are starting to incorporate, said Swain, the nursing manager. The new hospital has rooms specifically for patients who will be there less than 24 hours in order to leave the facility’s 144 other beds free for inpatients. It also has a private exit for patients who do not wish to leave from the main hospital entrance.
For O’Fallon-area residents, the opening of the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in November means they will have emergency services closer by.
O’Fallon emergency responders are preparing for a likely increase in the number of calls that could come with the uptick of residents, visitors and employees, said Eric Van Hook, O’Fallon chief of police and director of public safety.
His department has seen an increase in EMS calls each year for the past three years. Travel time to and from hospitals in Belleville could sometimes take 20 or 30 minutes, Van Hook said. The lengthy driving time limited the amount of calls they could respond to without help from other departments.
Proximity to the new hospital should reduce travel time while increasing the department’s capability in handling more calls, Van Hook said. He hopes his 15 full-time employees will be able to cut travel, transport and treatment times by 60 percent once the new St. Elizabeth’s opens.
“We’re excited for the different services that St. Elizabeth’s will be able to offer and the ability to get that kind of health care and not have to travel very far to get it,” Van Hook said.
Still, Van Hook says, it’s up to the patient on where they want to go in case of a medical emergency.
“99 percent of the calls are at the discretion of the patient,” Van Hook said.