Kadlec's freestanding emergency department in the Southridge area of Kennewick has been far busier than anticipated during its first year.
Officials expected to see about 12,000 patient visits during the initial 12 months, but instead the facility at Highway 395 and West 19th Avenue near Southgate Elementary School saw almost 21,000.
"The community has been really excited about having us here," said Carla May, manager.
The facility -- the only freestanding emergency department in Eastern Washington -- celebrated its one-year anniversary Tuesday.
It hasn't siphoned patients from the emergency room at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, May said, noting the patient volume there hasn't dropped. It's the same story for urgent care, she told the Herald.
The Kennewick facility now has about 60 staffers, not including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who work at Kadlec's Kennewick and Richland emergency departments.
The facility started with about 40 employees. May is in the process of hiring about six or seven more.
The $17 million, 21,500-square-foot facility has 15 exam rooms, plus a multipurpose room with three more exam bays. It drew 20,989 patient visits between June 3, 2013, and this past Monday.
That came out to about 58 visits a day, with the average length of stay at 96 minutes.
Shelley Goldstein, a nurse who has worked at the emergency department since it opened, said she believes word of mouth has contributed to the high patient volume. "Patients really enjoy the privacy that they're getting, and (that they're) coming back to the rooms right away," she said. "I think it's definitely appreciated by people in the community."
Andreas Bitterlich, a physician assistant, said "the model (officials) designed and had in mind has worked really well." The facility is helping fill a need in the area, Bitterlich added.
May said it's been a good first year. A great deal of effort went into designing the facility and determining how it should operate, and it's rewarding to see that pay off, she said.
She praised the emergency department's staff as skilled and committed.
The freestanding emergency department will soon have a new health care facility as a neighbor in the Southridge area.
Trios Health's new $110 million Southridge hospital off Plaza Way will welcome its first patients July 15.
The 168,000-square-foot hospital will be the Trios system's main hospital, with services including an emergency department.
Trios also is building a 160,000-square-foot medical office building and ambulatory care center next to the new hospital. It's expected to finish next year; the two facilities will connect.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; email@example.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald