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Sacred Heart to Build Stand-Alone ER in Escambia County

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Ascension-Sacred Heart
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Emergency medical patients in the Pensacola area are getting a new place to go beginning late next year.

Ascension Sacred Heart plans a stand-alone emergency center at the intersection of Nine Mile and Stefani Roads – an area that’s expected to grow, thanks to an expanding Navy Federal Credit Union.

“This is another step in our continuing endeavor to move Sacred Heart care and caring out into the community to make it more convenient and accessible to folks, rather than having to drive into the hospital campuses,” said Tom VanOsdol, president and CEO of Ascension Florida.

Construction of the nearly 15,000-square-foot facility – for about $11 million -- is expected to begin this fall, with opening in late 2020.

“This is really a continuation of this pursuit that has begun with other health centers that we’ve built throughout various areas of the broader community and physician practices that we’ve taken out,” VanOsdol said. “This is now a higher level of care, a more sophisticated level of care, and access points closer to where folks live and work.”

When finished, VanOsdol says the new ER will have some similarities to the emergency center at Sacred Heart Hospital’s main campus.

“Board-certified emergency physicians will be staffing the service, and the imaging services and the laboratory services that will be available,” said VanOsdol. “It will be very much like a hospital emergency department. The differentiator would really be the trauma program that we have here at Ascension Sacred Heart.”

The center will feature 13 treatment rooms and two trauma rooms. Also a lab, pharmacy, CT scanner and X-ray imaging. Treating serious injuries and illnesses – vehicle crash, chest pains, strokes, and the like -- will remain the purview of the primary ER.

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Credit Ascension-Sacred Heart
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Tom VanOsdol, President-CEO of Ascension Florida.

“Those would be appropriate kinds of cases to come into the hospital campus, into the emergency department,” said VanOsdol. “But beyond those, the emergency care that will be available will be very similar.”

Personnel for the new facility -- emergency medicine physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists -- will be hired and not transferred from Ascension operations in Pensacola or elsewhere.

“We’ve got a wonderful team of individuals – physicians, nurses, caregivers – who provide care in the emergency department; they will continue to provide care here and we will need others to join us in our mission, in staffing the facility out at Nine Mile,” VanOsdol said.

Sacred Heart Hospital is home to the area’s only Level-2 Trauma Center within Florida, and it’s Level-1 for Alabama. But VanOsdol says there are no plans for the new center to mirror the existing one.

“The Trauma Center will remain on the hospital campus [on 9th Ave.]; this will be a full emergency department, but not trauma certified,” said VanOsdol. “If we can make care more convenient and accessible and relieve the burden of travel time for individuals – which is a burden of both time and sometimes the access to travel – if we can take the care to where folks are, we feel that’s very aligned with our mission and values.”

Recently, Baptist Health Care announced construction of a new campus at the intersection of Interstate 110 and Brent Lane, a 250-bed hospital with 650,000 square feet of space. Ascension’s Tom VanOsdol says the new emergency facility is not in response.

“This has been in our vision for some time; this is, like I say a continuation of our effort to build an array of services and various levels of sophistication in terms of those services to make them convenient and accessible,” said VanOsdol. “The Baptist announcement we heard as well; it came certainly after our decision to build this new facility out on Nine Mile [Road].”

The new emergency center joins two other Ascension projects now under construction in Pensacola: a health center off Summit Boulevard, and a physical therapy and rehabilitation center near Bayou Boulevard. Both of those facilities are scheduled to open next year.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.