You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

In case of emergency: St. Joseph Mercy Saline Health Center pilots call-ahead ER

By Amy Biolchini

Editor's note: The lead photo's caption has been edited to correct the employee's title and the patient's name.


Sarah Guilless, a patient care technician in the emergency department at St. Joseph Mercy Saline Health Center, checks on patient Susan Case Feb. 1. The hospital has launched a new program for patients to call ahead before coming in to the ER.

Courtney Sacco I

The St. Joseph Mercy Saline Health Center has launched a proactive service in its emergency department in which patients can call ahead to alert staff that they will be coming in with an urgent condition.

The “Call-Ahead ER” program is being piloted at the hospital, 400 W. Russell St. in Saline, for the St. Joseph Mercy Health System.

Patients call the emergency department at (734) 429-0200 to provide the staff with basic information and an estimated time that they’ll be arriving. The program launched at the end of November and is free to patients.

“In other emergency centers, you have to show up and sit in the waiting room for a while,” said Dr. Michael Baker, medical director of the Saline emergency department.


Emergency department nurse Marie Scott talks on the phone at St. Joseph Mercy Saline Health Center.

Courtney Sacco I

Rather than have patients sit and wait to be seen when they arrive, Baker said the new program means patients can spend their wait times in their vehicles as they are driving in to the hospital.

“We’re trying to keep that waiting room as empty as we can,” Baker said. “Patients seem to like spending wait time at home instead of in the emergency room.”

The advance notice allows hospital staff to better prepare to meet patients at the door of the emergency room, Baker said.

The Saline hospital is a good fit to pilot the program because of its smaller size and connections made possible through its affiliation with the St. Joseph Mercy Health System, Baker said.

Located 20 to 30 minutes from the west side of Ann Arbor, Baker said he hopes the program attracts patients in need of emergency medicine to the Saline hospital.

“It’s an underutilized jewel for the community,” he said.

The Saline hospital’s patient base is both surrounding rural areas and the west side of Ann Arbor, and often treats patients injured in horse and farm-related accidents.

“Most of the time we have a room ready for (patients that call ahead), although we can’t always guarantee that,” Baker said. “If we have a wait of half an hour or more -- that’s unusual -- (we) can tell them when they call ahead.”

Baker said patients typically don’t have long wait times in the Saline emergency room, as it’s a low-volume facility. The emergency department treats 1,000 to 1,200 patients per month, and has 12 main rooms with five rooms dedicated to senior patients.

The average length of stay in the Saline hospital’s emergency department is two hours, Baker said.

The program doesn’t guarantee patients a room in the emergency department as the staff still need to triage patients. Those patients who arrive at the emergency department without calling ahead will still be seen right away if their condition is dire, Baker said.

The program is a first for the St. Joseph Mercy Health System and the first of its kind in the area, as the University of Michigan Health System does not have a similar program for patients.

UMHS' two emergency departments at University Hospital and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital do take calls from physician's offices alerting staff that their patients in need of emergency care are on the way, said Kara Gavin, a spokeswoman for UMHS. The health system also has an electronic referral system that serves the same purpose in emergency situations, Gavin said.

The advance notice from physicians helps UMHS' emergency departments to better coordinate care and to more effectively triage patients, Gavin said.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Jeff Renner

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

From the headline, I thought for sure that this was about Survival Flight pilots radioing in before they landed, which would hardly be news. I mean, imagine if they showed up unexpectedly on the helipad! ????


Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Not to be petty, but in the picture the "nurse" who is checking the patient is NOT a nurse but a patient care technician as is clearly seen on her name tag. Big difference between a licensed RN and an unlicensed PCT. AA News should really do better research before print.

Amy Biolchini

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

The photo caption has been corrected.


Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

IMHO U. of M. has a much better plan. People needing urgent help get priority. People whose conditions won't worsen by waiting, aren't seen as soon. Medical conditions should affect when patients are seen in the ER. This is not like a restaurant where people with reservations are seated ahead of those without reservations.


Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

I think the patient in the photo is Susan Case not Sase.

Amy Biolchini

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

I talked with the photographer and the photo caption has been corrected. Thanks!

Momma G

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

We have learned from now on to just to directly to SJMHS in Superior Twp. It took 2 hours for my husband to be transported from Saline to Superior Twp. due to unavailable ambulances. Thanks God it wasn't a life & death emergency, but I still wonder whether the outcome would have been a little different.