Cave Spring ER Makes Its Debut

It’s a concept seen elsewhere but until December 5th was not found in the Roanoke Valley: a stand-alone Emergency Department not attached to a hospital. Now LewisGale Medical Center’s Cave Spring ER has made its debut; it features 8 private treatment rooms, a full laboratory for testing, CAT scan, X-Ray – even a secure exam area for behavioral health patients.

Cave Spring ER, located at the corner of Electric and Ogden Roads near Tanglewood Mall, will accept patients who choose to come there after being transported by ambulance crews or those who walk in by themselves. LewisGale officials like Dr. Steve Pasternak, medical director for the emergency department, advise those considering Cave Spring ER that it is not to be confused with a drop in urgent care facility, which may be a better choice for non-emergencies and will have lower co-pays in typical cases.

“Both emergency departments are filled to the brim,” says Pasternak of the ER departments at both Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and LewisGale Medical Center. Cave Spring ER features “state of the art equipment,” says Pasternak, and “a new adventure for the valley. We’re excited.” The CAT scan equipment on site comes with 24 hour access to a radiologist staffed elsewhere that can review the images taken at Cave Spring ER and then deliver a medical opinion.

In the week-plus before the stand-alone ER facility opened, the staff was put through mock scenarios with the help of patients who feigned specific health conditions, allowing everyone to get comfortable with the 10,000 square foot, 12 million dollar building’s layout and equipment.

In addition, LewisGale worked with local EMS ambulance crews so they became familiar with how and where to deliver patients. A person can elect to be taken to Cave Spring ER as opposed to an emergency room at one of the two local hospitals; an EMS crew can decide, however, that they should go to a hospital due to their condition. “We’ve had some discussion with EMS medical directors as to what is appropriate to come here.” Pasternak says there is a dedicated staff of nurses on site while the staffing physicians will rotate from LewisGale’s home base in Salem.

Michael Henson is the director of emergency services and the nursing supervisor at Cave Spring ER: “We’ve had all of our staff in here running scenarios, checking the equipment, making sure everything is good to go.” Henson says they went through “every scenario we could think of,” before the doors opened on December 5. “We tried to think of everything.”

Henson says the original forecast was set at 27 patients a day coming through Cave Spring ER, “but we think we’re going to be much busier. That’s what we are preparing for.” He also says the staff got to come in and assemble much of the brand new equipment, making them feel “invested in it and [wanting to] take care of it more. It’s kind of like building a home. We literally unpacked everything from the box and put it together ourselves.”

The ER clock that shows the waiting time for LewisGale – seen on a billboard along Electric Road – will now refer to the wait time only at Cave Spring ER. “They’ll have their own [clock],” says Henson of a wait time indicator for the ER department at the hospital in Salem.

Gene Marrano