OKEMOS, Mich. — If you take the highway from Okemos to the downtown Sparrow Hospital location it's about a 14-minute drive. It's about 19 minutes from Williamston.
“It’s not too terribly far away, but it’s a whole different world going to Okemos than being on Michigan Avenue,” said Sparrow President Alan Vierling.
While that doesn't seem that long, if it's an emergency every minute counts.
“This is all about accessing great health care quickly,” said Vierling.
That's why Sparrow wants to take their services all the way to Okemos and open mid-Michigan's first freestanding emergency medical facility.
“A freestanding emergency department is an emergency department that doesn’t have a hospital attached to it,” said Chief Medical and Quality Officer Dr. Karen Kent VanGorder.
So, if it doesn't have a hospital attached to it, what exactly does it have?
“You literally pick up your emergency room doctors, your emergency room nurses, your cat scanners, your laboratory, your ability to dispense medication, and you put them in a community that doesn’t have as good of access,” Vierling said.
This facility will have imaging equipment like CT scans, x-rays, and ultrasounds. Vierling said it will be open all day every day.
While some urgent cares in the area are also open 24/7, this clinic is different from those facilities.
“Urgent cares typically do not have board-certified emergency physicians that are trained to handle trauma emergencies,” VanGorder said.
If you walk into Sparrow's freestanding clinic with an emergency, they have the ability to begin treatment right away.
“I’ve got chest pain and I go see my family practice doc out in Okemos and I walk in and I say I’m not feeling good, I’m run down, my chest is hurting me a little bit. They say let’s do an EKG,” Vierling said. “It’s real easy for them to push me across the hallway to say to the emergency room doc ‘hey Alan just walked in here he’s got chest pain this is his EKG can you guys do your thing and we can begin to intervene and treat right there.”
But there are some things a freestanding clinic doesn't have.
“It doesn’t have an intensive care unit attached to it, it doesn’t have an operating room," VanGorder said. "Those things obviously still require a hospital.”
When deciding if you should go to the freestanding clinic or the downtown location, Vierling said you should always choose whichever one is closest.
“We can intern diagnose quicker, we can intern intervene faster and we can intern improve the patient experience,” Vierling said.
When asked if there would be competition with McLaren's new facility just a few miles away near Michigan State's campus, Sparrow Spokesperson John Foren said the Sparrow project has been on the drawing board for some time.
"Part of our strategy to expand our sites of care throughout the region, from the city of Lansing to the suburbs, from urban to rural," Foren said. "This is the latest in a series of investments we’ve made in mid-Michigan as the area’s only community-based, community-owned health system.”
VanGorder said they do anticipate some of the traffic in the downtown location to improve when the Okemos facility opens.
“In effect you now have two lines," VanGorder said. "You never want to be the sickest person in that line, but you also don’t want to have to wait behind all the sick people in that line. So having two lines obviously improves access to everyone.”
The ultimate goal is to provide easier access to care.
“The safety of your community, the health of your community, the happiness we all have living here is in large part is based off of our ability to access great healthcare quickly,” Vierling said.
The project still needs to be approved by both the Meridian Township Board and Planning Commission. If approved, the township will need to review the site plan before construction begins.
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