, Newburyport, MA

November 6, 2008

'Fast track' jets in to Anna Jaques

Hospital: No more long waits in emergency department

By Katie Farrell

NEWBURYPORT — Emergency room patients suffering from cuts, breaks, sore throats, bruises and other minor ailments should soon see a much shorter wait time at Anna Jaques Hospital.

The new "Fast Track" expansion was unveiled yesterday after 11 months of construction. The 3,300-square-foot addition brings four extra exam rooms, a waiting room and a nurses station to the hospital's emergency department.

Initially discussed several years ago, the project began to take formation under the leadership of Anna Jaques Hospital President Delia O'Connor.

Patients at Anna Jaques often complain about the long wait time in the emergency department, sometimes up to six hours. Deb Chiaravalloti, vice president of marketing and public relations at Anna Jaques, said the goal is to have Fast Track patients treated and released in two hours, perhaps even less.

Fast Track is designed to accommodate those patients who do not need extensive testing, Chiaravalloti said, and it will also reduce congestion at the main emergency department.

About one-third of the visitors to the emergency department are estimated to be Fast Track patients. It will likely open in about a month, after the Department of Public Health visits the site and grants permission, hospital officials said yesterday.

"The staff can't wait to get in," said Diane Wigmore, director of the emergency department.

With tight room space — the emergency department has 16 exam rooms and sees 85 to 120 patients a day, or more than 30,000 patients annually — the staff is used to getting complaints, as some patients will leave angry and untreated, Wigmore said. Staff also must use hall beds — something patients are not pleased by, she said.

"You want to keep people happy," Wigmore said.

Fast Track will be open each day, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., but all patients will first be evaluated at the main emergency department before being transferred to Fast Track. It will include a waiting room, a nurses' station, an office for the nurse practitioner and the exam rooms — one of which is specifically designed for children.

"We've been looking forward to this for a long time," said Dr. Ron Fried, the assistant chief of the emergency department.

The Fast Track project cost about $2.7 million, and $1 million of that came from donors, including the Gerrish Family Foundation, who gave a lead gift.

Also unveiled yesterday was the hospital's new MRI center, which included updated technology and an addition to the department.

Denise Worobey, who donated the funding for the new center named after her late husband and son, said she saw the donation as a way to help the community and to do something significant to honor the memories of her loved ones.

"The community was really good to me," Worobey said.