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Medical Center opens emergency room for seniors

Assistant Emergency Center director Tracey Brown in West

Assistant Emergency Center director Tracey Brown in West Boca Medical Center's new Senior ER. Credit: TNS / Marci Shatzman

West Boca Medical Center in Florida recently opened a new emergency room specifically for seniors, and less than a month later, two of its four beds were filled during a recent visit.

The facility is just off the hospital’s main emergency room. It’s designed to have a cozier, less busy atmosphere, said Tracey Brown, assistant director for the emergency center.

There are lower beds with thicker mattresses, a softer ivory paint on the walls, non-skid flooring and art designed to make the space look less institutional.

It’s much quieter, too. “There’s no binging monitors or phones ringing,” Brown said.

Larger and higher chairs are designed to accommodate people with mobility issues. “Some of our patients have had hip replacements and it’s much easier and safer for them to get in and out of the chair,” she said.

Brown compared the new ER to the medical center’s specially designed pediatric facility. Seniors are “a part of the community we serve and a big part of our patients,” she said. “It’s more sensitive to their needs.”

Seniors can opt to be treated in the general ER, but that hasn’t happened. “Most people, if they don’t feel well, just want to rest,” Brown added. “It’s the same cost for more sensitive treatment.”

The space used to be a minor medical treatment area for patients with less acute needs who didn’t require heart monitoring.

Before the changeover, Brown researched out to senior emergency rooms around the country, then visited the Senior Care ER at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, another Tenet Healthcare hospital. “We wanted to see what worked and what didn’t,” she said.

There’s no extra insurance charge to use the facility, she said. Nursing staffing is the same rotation as the regular emergency room. “Our nurses are shared, and all nurses have been educated” in that specialty, she said.

The hospital has an ER policy of triaging anyone who comes into the emergency center at bedside immediately until all the beds are filled, she added.

“We want to speed up the process. Once we’re full, we triage out front,” in the ER waiting room, she said.

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