Free-Standing Emergency Department set to open in Auburn

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By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com 

East Alabama Health opened the Auburn Medical Pavilion in collaboration with Auburn University and the city of Auburn Friday morning in the Auburn Research Park. 

The medical pavilion is a freestanding emergency room department, ambulatory surgery center and will soon host a breast health center as well. 

“This is a very exciting day for us,” said EAMC President and CEO Laura Grill. “Our hospital family has been looking forward to this day for a very long time.”

The facility will open on June 23 and will offer options to Auburn residents that they previously had to drive to the main EAMC campus for. 

“Between those two facilities [main campus and Lanier] that are currently open, we serve about 60,000 emergency room visits a year,” Grill said. “With this facility coming on board, we see that continuing to grow.”

Dr. Trent Wilson, orthopedic surgeon and chair of the managing board, said he views the new center as a win-win situation. 

“Rarely do you come across something that’s truly a win-win situation and when I look at this project, I see it as a win-win situation all the way around,” he said. “I think it’s a win for our patients, for my patients, who now have another opportunity, another location for surgical care that’s just a different setting … I think this is a win for the local medical staff, for the surgeons like me, who have a nice, shiny new building to operate in with a bunch of equipment. 

“ … I think it’s a win for our community like Dr. Moore mentioned, where we can provide additional services in a different location. I think that’s something this community’s needed for a long time. I think this is a win for the University and The Research Park by providing some collaboration where we can share and do something together.”

Jim Weyhenmeyer, president of the Auburn Research Park, built on the topic of collaboration and said that the facility offers opportunities for cross-training.

“From my perspective, what has come out of the ground, if you will, in this space, is not only impressive but it will have an incredible impact on the community,” he said. 

Auburn President Jay Gogue said that over the course of a year at Auburn University, there are nine to 10 students who will pass away during that time. He said he thinks that by having a facility closer to the university, perhaps those numbers could go down. 

There are so many ways that EAMC has already affected the lives of those in Auburn, Opelika and Lee County, however, said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. 

“I think about a double-wide trailer behind a hospital that put life-giving infusions into many people who were fighting COVID,” he said. “I think about an old retail building that used to have a tenant, hadn’t had a tenant in a while that was retrofitted to provide, as we speak here today, over 90,000 vaccines to allow people to continue on with their lives. 

“And I think, really, what that speaks to is the heart and soul and the culture of East Alabama Medical Center, that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to serve the people of this community.”

The Auburn Chamber was in attendance as well to host a ribbon-cutting for the facility. 

“This is truly, truly an exciting day for our community,” Anders said. “This location brings critical, medical resources to all of Auburn’s residents. And hey, it adds 100 new jobs to our community. Residents will now be able to seek 24-hour care right here in the city limits of Auburn for many emergency situations and they’ll have additional options for procedures right here in our community.”

What the center will accommodate:

The first floor will feature the freestanding emergency department with twelve rooms.

Summer Storrs, manager for the emergency department, said that there will be a medication room, nutrition room, geriatric room, trauma room, as well as sexual assault nurse examiner rooms.

“We can do everything main campus can do, aside from admit you to our facility here,” she said. “But we are prepared, we have an ambulance dedicated to our facility to take you over to main campus. So if you’re experiencing anything you think needs to be an emergency visit, we can help you.”

The first floor also includes equipment necessary for CTs and MRIs. 

The East Alabama Ambulatory Surgery Center is located on the second floor, has four operating rooms, four endoscopy suites, 22 peri-operative bays and will be used for out-patient procedures. 

The third floor, which is currently unfinished, will hold the Breast Health Center, which East Alabama hopes will be finished later in the year.

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