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State's first freestanding ER on track to open in October

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- South Dakota's first freestanding emergency room, which is expected to primarily serve a concentration of residents large enough that it could be the state's third-largest city, is on track to see its first patients this October.

 

SIOUX FALLS (AP) - South Dakota's first freestanding emergency room, which is expected to primarily serve a concentration of residents large enough that it could be the state's third-largest city, is on track to see its first patients this October.

Avera Health on Wednesday offered the first glimpse inside the emergency room it will manage west of Interstate 29 in Sioux Falls. The health care system has estimated that the facility will serve a population of roughly 45,000 who currently lack nearby access to an emergency room - that's more than a fourth of Sioux Falls' total residents.

"If you took that population and annexed it from Sioux Falls, that would be the third-largest city in the state of South Dakota," said Mark Vortherms, vice president of primary care at Avera Health. "So when you think of that, there's a shortage of medical services for that size of a community. ... We'll provide services closer to their home."

The two other emergency rooms in Sioux Falls are nine to 16 minutes away without traffic from where the new facility is located, but around the evening rush hour, that time can change to 11 to 19 minutes.

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The 24/7 emergency room, with a planned opening date of Oct. 12, will not be attached to a hospital. If patients require hospitalization or greater attention, such as intervention for a heart attack or stroke or trauma surgery, they will be triaged and transferred to a hospital at Avera's cost.

The three-story, 85,000-square-foot building will also offer other services, including family and occupational medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology, during typical business hours. Urgent care services will be offered in the evenings and on weekends.

Vortherms said all patients who show up at the emergency room will receive an appropriate medical screening exam as required by federal law, but if their condition is minor, they will be given the option to be transferred within the building to urgent care. Such a move could result in cost savings for patients.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Sioux Falls has added about 17,000 residents since 2010 and reached an estimated population of more than 171,000 as of July 2015. Jeffrey Schmitt, the city's chief planning and zoning official, said people of all ages, demographics and geographic locations will benefit from the new facility.

"Having additional patient care access points allows for an increase in patient care in this new clinic as well as the existing clinics based upon the patient volume they have been experiencing," Schmitt said. "This is another example of dispersing services, meeting our citizens' needs, and allowing for less travel time when our citizens are looking for these services."

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