Siteman to Open 24/7 Clinic for Patients Needing Urgent Care
Sept. 24, 2008 – Going to the emergency room can be stressful enough, but for cancer patients, an emergency-room visit takes on a different meaning.
For instance, cancer patients with lowered immune systems may wait in emergency-room lobbies near patients with infectious diseases such as the flu. In addition, given the complex nature of many cancer regimens and clinical trials, some emergency-room staffers may be treating patients who are taking medications they’ve never heard of.
To provide around-the-clock service for cancer patients in need of urgent care, the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine will open a 24/7 Cancer Care Clinic inside the hospital's north campus. The clinic is scheduled to open in March.
“We’re trying to get oncology patients out of the emergency room because for cancer patients, being around sick people for eight hours can be deadly,” says registered nurse Amy Determann, manager of the 24/7 Cancer Care Clinic. “It’s a paradigm shift in care.”
The need for a 24/7 clinic was identified from records showing a number of Siteman patients in need of urgent care on a daily basis. For example, in 2006:
A total of 1,438 visits to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital emergency department among Siteman bone-marrow transplant patients and patients being treated by a Siteman medical oncologist resulted in a hospital admission (approximately four Siteman patients per day).
An average of five Siteman patients per day were either inside Barnes-Jewish or at other hospitals waiting for an inpatient bed.
An estimated 20 Siteman patients each week arrived at the Barnes-Jewish emergency department and were treated and released.
An estimated 15 Siteman patients were directed to local community hospital emergency rooms weekly.
Those cancer patients, who most often need fluids or infusion, can now be treated in the 24/7 center in an outpatient setting rather than a lengthy emergency-room visit or an admission to an area hospital. Nurse practitioners familiar with cancer treatments and Siteman’s clinical trials will work with Washington University hospitalists in staffing the clinic.
Barnes-Jewish is spending $994,000 to build the clinic, which will be comprised of seven infusion chairs, three private treatment rooms and one negative-pressure room. Siteman’s bone-marrow transplant weekend clinic will also relocate to the 24/7 clinic.
The clinic is not available to cancer patients seen by non-Siteman physicians. “Those patients may be on treatment regimens we are unfamiliar with, and it’s important for those patients to work with their oncologist if they need urgent care,” says Determann, who adds that the clinic is not a general emergency room but rather for Siteman patients with symptoms related to cancer. She says those with acute problems like heart attack or stroke need to visit an emergency room.