CENTREVILLE — Kenneth Kozel, University of Maryland Shore Regional Health CEO, gave county commissioners an update on operations Tuesday, Oct 22, as well as a status on the behavioral health relocation to Chestertown.
With the most recent fiscal year ending June 30, data from the Queenstown Emergency Room totaled 16,230 visits in FY19. Currently, FY20 is on pace to surpass 17,000. According to Kozel, the increase is due to the community becoming more aware of the services offered and emergency responders supporting the location.
“Staffing is commensurate with the volume and patient level acuity,” Kozel said. “Even with the increased numbers, we’re not seeing a drop-off of the sickness level of patients using the center. These are not just urgent care patients, and we do give patient-experience surveys when they’re discharged.”
Kozel noted the center is looking to expand services for observation patients normally discharged after 23 hours. Among the main goals is to not have to relocate them to other facilities far from their homes.
Patients that fit that criteria are estimated at one to two a week. While a pilot study is slated for Jan. 1 to see the impact of keeping these patients in the county, no beds are currently set aside specifically for observation.
“Our intent is to use existing beds as observation beds as we get a patient that fits that qualification. Then we’ll convert it from an ER bed to observation. We were planning on earmarking two beds for that purpose,” Kozel said.
Kozel said the state must get involved prior to a study being initiated. Following what he noted was two to three months of positive use by observation patients, he speculated some beds might be established for that purpose.
The issue of additional security at the center was also discussed with Kozel saying that law enforcement rotates throughout the building daily.
The Emergency Medical Services bay station certification has also been renewed for the next five years to Dec. 31, 2024, by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services. Such a certification allows the facility to communicate with EMS personnel as to where to go for services.
Kozel also detailed the status of the request to the state to relocate inpatient behavioral health beds from Cambridge to Chestertown. In June, the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health approved the request.
If the state also approves, that means when Shore Regional Health changes the Cambridge facility to a free-standing medical center in 2021, those beds would be placed in Chestertown.
“We’ve asked the state to do that, and we hope to hear from them within the next several months. In the mean time, we’re planning the layout, design and construction. There are many for and against this decision, but the state is now involved in the decision-making process,” Kozel said.
“We’re very supportive of the Chestertown move. Moving any mental health and substance abuse treatment into our (area) is constructive for us,” said County Commissioner Steve Wilson.
Finally, Kozel talked about how traffic backups at the Bay Bridge have impacted patients and how they have adapted the ways EMS crews respond to calls.
According to Kozel, that has meant more patients staying at the Queenstown emergency center to avoid having to cross the bridge.