UF&Shands announces plans for new freestanding emergency department

Administrators at UF&Shands, the University of Florida Academic Health Center, have announced plans to build a full-service, 911-receiving freestanding emergency department in northwest Gainesville that will provide convenient 24-hour emergency services for local residents with acute illnesses or injuries.

“We are committed to expanding and investing in health resources throughout the community, developing patient-focused medical programs to reach people where they live and work,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., University of Florida senior vice president for health affairs and UF&Shands Health System president. “Expanding our world-class emergency care beyond the main medical campus is part of our overall strategic approach. We’re continually finding ways to improve our patients’ access to the trusted experts and valued services they seek at UF&Shands.”

The 8,500-square-foot freestanding facility will include 10 exam spaces. Staffed by UF board-certified emergency physicians and specially trained Shands nurses, the team will have capacity to annually serve up to 25,000 patients. The building will be equipped with state-of-the-art emergency department technology and resources, including diagnostic and treatment resources such as lab and radiology services (CT, X-ray and ultrasound imaging), which are standard in a hospital-based emergency department.

“Most emergency department patients arrive as walk-in patients seeking prompt care and personal attention. In a family emergency, rather than having to drive across town, our north and northwest area residents will be able to get fast care closer to home with the quality and expertise they expect from UF&Shands,” said Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., M.P.H., UF College of Medicine emergency medicine chair and chief of emergency services for Shands Critical Care Center at UF.

Renovation to an existing building at 8475 NW 39th Ave. will begin in January and should be complete by July. Shands’ overall investment for construction and equipment is approximately $10 million.

The team will treat patients for life-threatening and serious injuries and conditions including respiratory distress, abdominal pain, allergic reaction, food poisoning, orthopaedic injuries and fractures, lacerations and minor burns. Many of these conditions require treatment beyond the capabilities of urgent care centers.

Patients who require further treatment, surgery or inpatient hospitalization ― including patients with major trauma or acute heart attack or stroke ― will be appropriately stabilized and transported to the Shands main campus. The Shands Critical Care Center at UF on Southwest Archer Road (south campus) includes the main Shands Emergency Department and Level I Trauma Center as well as the Shands Chest Pain ER. Across the street (north campus) is the Shands Pediatric ER.

Pediatric patients age 18 and under who arrive at the northwest facility will be immediately assessed and stabilized and, if further care or inpatient hospitalization is necessary, transferred to the Shands main campus.

Shands and county Emergency Medical Services teams will create a plan to ensure that transported patients are taken to the most appropriate emergency service based on the complexity of their condition. When seeking care in a medical emergency, the public should always proceed to the closest emergency department, freestanding or on a medical campus.

North and northwest Gainesville area walk-in patients and those arriving by ambulance who require immediate emergency care and stabilization will benefit from closer proximity to a full-service emergency department.

“Area residents who need emergency care will be able to receive attention quickly at the new location,” Tyndall added. “Our main emergency department at Shands Critical Care Center has a significant focus on high-acuity patients with complex conditions who require specialist care, surgery or hospitalization. This new facility will help us provide more efficient care in two locations.”

Freestanding emergency departments are designed to treat patients in a streamlined manner with minimal wait times compared with hospital-based emergency services.

“We predict that the addition of an off-campus emergency location will result in improved turnaround times at both full-service emergency departments. This will allow us to better meet our patients’ needs and ensure their satisfaction with their emergency care experience,” said Edward Jimenez, Shands at UF senior vice president and chief operating officer.

There is significant population growth predicted for northwest Gainesville and the surrounding area, and residential and commercial development planned for the Springhill area around Northwest 39th Avenue west towards the interstate.

“We are rapidly changing the face of health care for people in our community,” Jimenez said. “We’re evolving and responding to patients’ needs and preferences throughout our community. One of the benefits of living in north central Florida is access to outstanding health care, and having academic medical services with world-class experts now more available throughout the community.”