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Lanier Park ER to shut its doors at midnight tonight

POSTED: April 27, 2009 11:59 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Stacy Helton, left, a registered nurse, and united assistant Amanda Thomas pack up bedside equipment in an emergency room treatment room Monday at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center's Lanier Park Campus. Today is the last day of operations at the Lanier Park emergency room.

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At midnight tonight, something will happen at the emergency room at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Lanier Park campus that hasn’t happened since it opened: The doors will be locked.

For more than a year, hospital officials have been planning for the transition of the Lanier Park ER to the hospital’s main campus on Spring Street.

“For the past 30 days, we been trying to notify the public with signs and advertising,” said Dr. John Lewellen, ER medical director. “It’s not something you walk in one day and say ‘It’s closed,’ because you do not want someone walking or driving up and thinking there is an emergency room.”

Last week, the hospital began sending ambulance patients to the main campus in an effort to minimize the number of patients being admitted to the Lanier Park site. The Lanier Park campus is being phased out as the hospital continues the transition to the new North Patient Tower.

In addition to signage, the hospital will have an emergency phone that will dial directly to 911 for persons who arrive there in error after the closure.

Lewellen said the logistical planning for moving a hospital rivals planning for a military operation.

“It’s been a very big, but well thought out and orderly process,” he said.

Many on the ER staff at Lanier Park will move to the expanded emergency department at the main campus. Included in that group are some staff members who have spent much of their career at Lanier Park. For them, there is a bit of sadness at the closing.

“The staff has been teary for a week or two,” said Kay Smith, ER operations manager. “We’ve made some real attempts to make sure they have a nice evening before the closure and a chance to reminisce.”

Lewellen said at the same time, there are some exciting things that are being gained through the combining of the two ERs, including a separate fast-track area for non-emergency patients. The expanded area has its own waiting room. Patients will be evaluated upon arrival to determine if they need emergency care or can be routed to the fast-track area.

The emergency department at Northeast Georgia is among the busiest in the state.

“Our average census is about 240 patients a day, or about 82,000 patients a year,” Lewellen said.



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