If you are seriously ill or are injured, your chances of survival in Union County may be better than in any rural county in America.
The reason is simple: quick access to emergency medical care.
In July 2014 Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County opened its new $12-million emergency facility, which has 22 examination rooms, compared to seven examination rooms in the old emergency department. The new building has two trauma rooms and two triage rooms.
The Baptist Union County emergency department is located about 200 yards, just one or two minutes, from the Highway 30 exit from Interstate 22 in New Albany, a significant fact when it comes to quick access to care in situations where time is often critical to the survival of the patient.
Union County is bisected into two roughly equal parts by Interstate-22, which runs diagonally southeast to northwest through the county. Well over half of the Union County population lives within five miles of I-22, which means much faster access to emergency medical care than that enjoyed by most small town and rural residents in America.
For example, the Tupelo hospital, 25 miles from New Albany and with a good Level II emergency department, is not as easily accessible to most of the population of Lee and surrounding counties. It is located miles from I-22. Numerous traffic lights slow access to the Tupelo ER from the major highways into the city, and one of the major traffic routes to the hospital emergency room is blocked by railroad trains about 25 times every day.
The new ER in New Albany saw a 20% increase in business during its first full year of operation. There has been significant growth in the number of patients from both Lee and Lafayette Counties in the 17 months since the expanded New Albany facility opened.
Prior to the new emergency department opening, typical patients visiting the old facility experienced a total stay of between six and eight hours. The average total length of stay in the ER has been reduced to less than two hours.
A “vertical waiting area” system means patients spend little time in the waiting room and are actually examined by medical staff much faster than in the old emergency department. Although the new emergency department serves an average of 90 patients each day, there are few people seen waiting.
Dr. Robert Pitcock, MD, a native of Grenada, Miss., is the medical director of the Baptist Union County emergency department, and has worked at the New Albany hospital for a total of eight years. Heather Reid is the department’s nurse manager.
Dr. Pitcock says he enjoys working in New Albany because “the staff and patients are friendly and the administration is supportive.”
Pitcock says state-of-the-art technology has greatly improved emergency care in New Albany. He said “telemedicine” has made possible major improvements in treatment in the new emergency department.
Telemedicine can be defined as “the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance.” High resolution video cameras and monitors make it possible for medical specialists in other cities to see what is happening with patients in New Albany, and provide informed consultation to ER doctors. Dr. Pitcock said is sometimes possible for the high-resolution television cameras used in telemedicine see what is going on with the patient better than physicians can with the naked eye.
The new Baptist Union County emergency department facility is also designed to serve non-emergency patients during evenings and other times outside the regular office hours for family physicians. About 70% of visits are classified as “clinical” or non-emergency visits.
The new ER facility also includes a separate building with office space and a five-bay garage for the department’s ambulances and crews.
Baptist Union County Administrator and CEO Walter Grace says the new emergency department, now serving about 30,000 patients annually, is designed to serve up to 45,000 patients per year.
For more information about the quality of healthcare at Baptist Union County, see: Good health care news locally. Bad news statewide.Baptist Memorial Hospital Union County, New Albany MS