BREMERTON — Virginia Mason Franciscan Health has announced plans to open a hybrid emergency room and urgent care center on Kitsap Way in Bremerton. The health care group said the location would be the first in a group of similar sites it plans to open around Puget Sound over the next four years.
The new Bremerton facility, which will open adjacent to VMFH’s Kitsap Way Family Medicine Clinic, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and have onsite lab equipment and a radiology suite with X-ray and CT scanners, the health system said in an announcement. The total number of emergency room bays at the facility is still being evaluated, St. Michael Medical Center president Chad Melton said in an interview with the Kitsap Sun.
VMFH said work on the new location was underway and slated to be complete in spring 2023.
The health care group said the combination facilities would eliminate guesswork for patients who were unsure of where to go for care and help to funnel non-urgent cases away from hospital-based emergency rooms.
Melton said patients won’t be able to tell the difference between the emergency and urgent care sides of the facility.
“The patients will not have to choose urgent care or ED like they do today within the community,” he said. “It will be seamless on the back end. The patient will come in, they’ll be seen by a board-certified emergency room physician, and on the back end, the bill will be adjusted for the level of care that they receive.”
The new facilities come via a partnership with Dallas-based Intuitive Health. VMFH said the Bremerton facility would be the first such hybrid care site in the state and that the two groups would be working to identify locations for other similar facilities in the region.
“Our innovative care model simplifies the patient experience – patients no longer need to choose between the emergency department and the local urgent care center,” Thom Herrmann, CEO of Intuitive Health, said in a statement. “Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s new combined Emergency and Urgent Care facilities will expand the health system's ambulatory footprint across the Puget Sound and ultimately allow them to care for more patients, closer to home.”
Melton pointed to benefits like 24/7 access to care and giving EMS providers another location in Kitsap to drop off patients so they can return to service and said having both emergent and urgent care at one site would help to drive down health care costs.
The bulk of St. Michael Medical Center operations was shifted from Bremerton to Silverdale in December 2020, though the Cherry Avenue campus’s emergency room remained open. VMFH then shuttered the emergency room in Bremerton a year ago, citing staffing issues and saying that the move would be temporary, but that site never reopened.
"People felt there was a void of those types of services when we moved to the St. Michael Medical Center campus," Melton said. "People were super excited when I talked at (Bremerton) City Council and others, to bring that level of care back to Bremerton. It fits well within the community that we serve. People were hoping for urgent care, and I think we one-upped it by adding the ED component, so they don’t have to leave the community for that level. It will have labs, imaging, X-ray and CT scanners at the location, so there’s no need to be transferred unless it was for an in-patient stay.”
He added: “With the pandemic, it was challenging to be able to staff both locations and duplicate those services, so we consolidated down to one campus. I believe that we’re positioned much better now and know much more about COVID than we did in the past, and I feel comfortable moving forward.”
Asked about staffing for the new Kitsap Way facility, Melton said he saw the location as a “true addition” to the community and said VMFH officials have no intention of diminishing services elsewhere. He pointed to a nursing residency program designed to help meet the growing demand for staff and said that as nurses who took "travel" contracts start to come back to the community, there has been headway on replacing "agency" staff with "core" staff.
“I believe we’re on the right track to be able to staff that unit,” he said of the new facility.
Nathan Pilling is a reporter covering Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, email@example.com or on Twitter at @KSNatePilling.
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This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Virginia Mason Franciscan Health to open new Bremerton ER-urgent care