The Emergency Room signs have all been removed at the former hospital. It feels like the end of an era. So much pride was invested in Saline Community Hospital, built by and for the people of Saline 55 years ago. Many are saddened to see it go.
But it has actually been disappearing by degrees. The inpatient facility closed in 2010, the surgical unit in 2012. Now the 24-hour ER is gone.
Associated with the ER closing, a number of other services have been phased out over the past few months. These include physical and occupational therapy, ultrasound and mammography. CT scans remain, but will be relocated to Ann Arbor in a few months.
It all comes down to dollars and cents. Hospital spokespeople say that nighttime ER visits in Saline have diminished to five or fewer per night, making the service economically unsustainable.
“The community itself didn’t use it, so how can you keep the doors open?” said Michele Szczypka, Regional Chief Marketing Officer at St. Joseph Mercy Health System.
Perhaps as Szczypka, a Saline resident, suggests, people quit coming to the ER because the inpatient option had ceased. Why go to Saline ER when you know you will likely need to be transferred to another facility anyway?
Some of the local services remain. The ER has been replaced by an 8 a.m. to an 8 p.m. urgent care facility. The same doctors and most of the day shift ER employees have been retained, said Kevin DiCola of the St. Joseph Mercy public relations department.
On the other hand, DiCola noted that about 60 employees have been affected by the changes. Most of these have been redeployed to other parts of the St. Joseph system.
Patients seeking urgent care services will now need to enter by the main entrance, not the ER entrance, DiCola said. ER entrances from the outside were locked this morning.
In addition to urgent care, remaining services include blood draws, diagnostic x-rays and health education. For other procedures, St. Joseph Mercy Health recommends that patients go to its Ann Arbor or Chelsea facilities.
Eventually all of the current operations will be moved to a different facility in Saline, which is “more visible and accessible.” A hospital volunteer suggested that the new location would be somewhere on Michigan Avenue and that a move is intended to occur by August 15.
However DiCola says that nothing has been decided. Indeed, he suggested that both the purchase of an existing building and new construction are still possibilities.
Clearly St. Joseph Mercy Health has not abandoned Saline. For example they plan to continue to make use of the Community Health Pavilion.
“We have a number of programs that we will continue holding at that Saline Health Center, DiCola said. “And were also talking with Saline Parks and Recreation Department to also provide some programming within that building.”
An example of St Joseph Mercy Health's commitment to Saline is its willingness to offer some financial support to Saline’s new Addiction Prevention Task Force.