Efforts to establish an emergency department at Curry Medical Center, 500 5th St. in Brookings, are one step closer to reality following the Oregon Legislature’s approval of $2 million for the project.
Brookings is the largest rural community in the state without a hospital.
Curry Health Network’s CEO Ginny Razo said the network’s vision is to be the region’s premier rural healthcare system.
To accomplish that, it aligns all of its services with optimizing each patient’s experience through exceptional service and quality care.
She said that when the Brookings emergency department opens, it will operate within the current Curry Medical Center (CMC) facility, as the walk-in clinic is transitioned into space that can support the emergency department.
“The emergency department facility space will be fully equipped to handle emergencies with staffing, equipment and supplies to provide for timely stabilization of most life-threatening emergencies,” said Razo.
“Examples of equipment currently located at CMC that support an emergency department include, but are not limited to, diagnostic imaging including X-ray, 64-slice CT scanner, ultrasound and MRI.
“Other equipment includes a tele-stroke robot and cardiac monitoring.”
Razo said Curry Health Network began updating CMC to meet current building codes in 2015 and therefore no major construction is needed on the building to open an emergency department.
The network also has invested approximately $1.75 million in construction and capital equipment at the medical center, she said.
“Management continues to work with the board of directors to finalize a budget,” said Razo, “but we anticipate $2 million will be sufficient to allow CHN to open the Curry Medical Center Emergency Care Department.”
She said residents of the southern portion of Curry County currently are faced with limited choices for emergency care.
“They can call an ambulance or drive to either Crescent City, California, where Sutter Coast Hospital operates an (emergency department), or to Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach,” she said.
“The only ‘immediate care’ service in Brookings is available at Curry Medical Center, in the form of the walk-in clinic.”
Razo said many residents do not completely understand the limitations of the walk-in clinic, and therefore arrive at that location with life-threatening conditions.
Clinic staff have limited resources and must use 911 to summon an ambulance to transport the patient 30 miles to one of the available emergency departments. That delay in emergency care, said Razo, poses a significant threat to the safety of the community.
The American College of Emergency Physicians has emphasized that “for life-threatening emergencies in which minutes count, a visit to an urgent care center [i.e., walk-in clinic] may create a dangerous delay in care while the patient is transferred to a hospital.”
Razo added that while some area residents value the less-expensive cost and convenient access of a walk-in clinic in the south-county area, the American College of Emergency Physicians says that when these patients require transfer to an emergency department, any cost savings disappear.
In addition, when utilizing the clinic causes delays in receiving emergency care and treatment, the medical problem often becomes significantly more dangerous and ultimately costly to treat.
State Rep. Brock Smith (R-Port Orford) and State Sen. Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) advocated for the emergency department funding during the 2019 legislative session, which concluded June 30.
They stressed that investment in an emergency department could improve patient outcomes, save lives, and bolster both the local and state economies.