Marin General Hospital Celebrates Its Renovated Emergency Department

GREENBRAE, CA — Just 18 months after a $2.89 million donation jump-started the expansion and upgrade project for Marin General Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED), the completed project is getting rave reviews from patients and staff members.

The changes are worth celebrating; family-friendly waiting areas, and faster, more efficient assessment and treatment of patients. Best of all, patients can expect a quick turnaround, something that hasn’t been customary in the past.

“One of our first visitors was a family whose little girl had injured her leg,” says Michelle Tracy, Director of Emergency Services at Marin General Hospital. “The mom had brought in a large backpack filled with snacks and toys, anticipating a long, uncomfortable wait based on prior experience here. They were in and out in 30 minutes!”

Among the additions patients especially appreciate is a large, comfortable, family waiting room, outfitted with a pediatric area and all-new seating, including bariatric furniture and wheel chair areas. It opens to an inviting patio with outdoor tables and umbrellas and a stunning view of Mt. Tam.

“It’s especially important for family and visitors to have someplace to go when the patient is having tests,” Tracy says.

To improve efficiency and speed up registration, a medically-trained greeter positioned at the front door quickly assesses patients and steers those with medical emergencies straight inside to see a doctor. Registration then proceeds at bedside, allowing care to begin immediately.

For less acute patients, the former waiting room has been converted to a rapid medical exam room with five triage areas. Patients see a specially trained nurse and then a qualified medical provider. In the process, a plan of care is quickly created and implementation begins. The expansion of the triage area has meant that patients with less severe maladies aren’t forced to wait while more critical patients’ problems are addressed.

“They can be seen in the triage areas and discharged,” Tracy says. “The quick turnaround means there’s no need to wait among the acute patients to see a doctor. It’s a great option for someone whose regular doctor can’t see them right away—we can manage orthopedic injuries such as sprains or fractures, draw lab tests and administer medications in a separate treatment room and, if they are just waiting for test results or need to be monitored, they can stay in a quiet sub-waiting room. It’s especially nice for kids, for whom a visit to a chaotic Emergency Department can be traumatic.”

“The notion that emergency rooms are only for victims of a shooting, a serious accident, or heart attack is antiquated,” said Dr. Jim Dietz, medical director of the ED. “We cover a broad spectrum of acute care needs. Someone with a torn muscle, smashed finger or troubling cough may not be able to wait to see their own doctor during business hours. This project has assured that patients are able to access the level of care needed without enduring a long wait.”

The upgrade is timely, since Marin General Hospitalis the only designated trauma center in Marin County and there also are few after hour clinics available. The two factors combined mean that the hospital’s ED is seeing more patients than ever—some 34,000 patients in the past year, of whom about 6,000 required hospitalization.

“It was critical for us to streamline our processes,” says Tracy. “A significant number of patients were driving all the way to San Francisco to avoid the wait here. We can now keep waiting time to a minimum and provide a comfortable, calming setting.”

The average visit is about 90 minutes, meaning patients don’t have to give up an entire day of work to visit an ED.

To further streamline patients’ visits, the ED registration is done entirely by computer. If a patient has interacted with the hospital in the past, their insurance information and past medical history can be tapped immediately without time-consuming forms to fill out. Patients don’t have to remember all their medical details, and their primary care physician can later access the information related to the visit.

A major improvement from the upgrade is the easy access to diagnostic technology. “Patients can get an x-ray or lab draw right there,” Tracy says. “Some tests can be run in the ED, and if there’s a question they have immediate access to a physician. With sicker patients, such as someone with pneumonia, by the time an acute care bed in the emergency department is available all the tests have been completed.”

A major share of the ED upgrade was paid for with a gift from the Schultz family, renowned for generous gifts to Marin General Hospitalthat have helped fund the linear accelerator at Marin Cancer Institute, the birthing center and the breast health center, among other things.

“We’re thankful for the extraordinary generosity of the Schultz family,” said Marin General Hospital CEO Lee Domanico. “Their leadership and financial support over many decades has been a catalyst for the community support we now receive, and is allowing us to provide Marin residents with the high quality care they deserve.”