I went to Saline Hospital/Saline St. Joseph Mercy Monday night without a plan -- which is never a good idea. Founded in 1959, Saline Hospital was set to close for good at 9 p.m., and to reopen Tuesday as an urgent care clinic.
I was pretty sure employees would not talk. Employees in all walks of life fear ramifications of truth telling. I was also fairly sure hospital officials would order me to leave the hospital. Perhaps frustrated by my failure to articulate the meaning of the hospital's closing, I imagined a situation where police would be called by hospital security after I refused security's order to leave.
I arrived shortly before 8 p.m. and found David Fletcher scraping off the words "Emergency Room" from a sign. All around the parking lot, the new "Urgent Care" signs were up. After a quick walk through the old hospital lobby, I went to the ER and stated I my intention to document the final hour of the hospital's life.
I immediately sensed the woman at the front desk understood that the demise of Saline's community hospital deserved some kind of documentation. She could not mask her sadness over the situation. But being a good employee, she called her manager, who called another manager. Again, I relayed my desire to document the final hour of Saline's hospital, perhaps a picture of the doors being closed or locked, for the last time. The ER room manager said I could stay if I didn't take any pictures of patients or ask anyone any questions. Though I wasn't sure what kind of story would result with these limitations, I agreed to her terms.
Sitting in the ER waiting room, there wasn't much to see. After about 15 minutes a security guard asked for my name and phone number. After another four or five minutes, I realized there wasn't going to be a story. So I left.
Driving down Michigan Avenue, a St. Joe's public relations employee called to inform me that I was going to have to leave, out of concerns for patient confidentiality. I was invited to call and set up a time for an interview. I don't think anyone cares what else Saint Joseph Mercy Health System has to say at this point. They've explained their position in press releases and news articles resembling press releases in all the local publications, two or three times now (see the boiler plate FAQ,). I was hoping to get something other than lipstick-on-a-pig PR spin. Some truth. Some humanity. I failed. So instead, this:
Below is a series of questions and answeres provided by Saline St. Joseph Mercy.
What is happening at St. Joseph Mercy Saline?
The Emergency Department will be converted to an Urgent Care on April 15, 2014. Outpatient care services such as ultrasounds, mammograms and and physical therapy will be consolidated to the main campus at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and other ambulatory facilities.
How will this affect me?
Most insurance co-pays for urgent care visits cost less than ER visits. If you require emergency care, the EDs at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Chelsea Community Hospital are conveniently located near Saline. If you come to St. Joseph Mercy Saline for labs, tests, mammograms, and ultrasounds, your doctor will begin referring your next appointments to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor or Chelsea Community Hospital.
What is an urgent care qualified to treat?
An urgent care fills a need in the community for non-emergency services such as sprains, wounds requiring stitches, rashes and illnesses such as cold or flu.
What are the hours of the new urgent care?
The urgent care will be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What services will remain at St. Joseph Mercy Saline?
CT Scans will remain at St. Joseph Mercy Saline until equipment can be moved to Ann Arbor. This could take several months.
The Community Health Pavilion will remain as a resource for education, nutrition and preventive health services.
Phlebotomy lab draw services (both onsite and in-home), as well as and general diagnostics / x-rays will continue.
What about the doctors and nurses?
The same doctors from Emergency Physicians Medical Group (www.epmg.com) will be seeing patients at the new urgent care, and so will St. Joe's nurses and staff.
Where can I go when I need emergency services?
For emergency services, the ED at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor is less than 11 miles from Saline. It is a Level II trauma center and well-equipped to handle new patients from Saline. Huron Valley Ambulance already transports Saline-area patients to the Ann Arbor ED, so that service will not change. Patients also have the option of going to Chelsea Community Hospital's Emergency Department.
What outpatient services will be discontinued at Saline?
Physical therapy, occupantional therapy, mammography and ultrasound services will be moved to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and other outpatient facilities.
This is the latest of a string of service closures at Saline over the years. Why?
Saline Hospital opened in 1959 as a full service hospital built by the local community and for the local community. But by the mid-1980s, both U of M Hospital and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor had grown their respective services to the point that residents were using the Saline hospital less and less. In 1991, the hospital merged with Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in order to continue serving southern Washtenaw County. However, usage continued declining and services had to be discontinued for lack of volume. The inpatient unit closed in 2010; the surgical center closed in 2012.