Sixth months after opening the doors to its Middletown Emergency Department, Christiana Care Health System says its newest intermediate care facility is even busier than was originally anticipated.

Sixth months after opening the doors to its Middletown Emergency Department, Christiana Care Health System says its newest intermediate care facility is even busier than was originally anticipated.

“We’ve seen just about everything so far, including a broad range of injuries and illnesses, and even an emergency birth or two,” said Medical Director Dr. Heather Farley. “The volume has definitely been higher than we expected, but we’re well-equipped and well-staffed, and have been managing just fine.”

The new, $34 million facility off of Del. Route 299 has averaged about 60 patient visits per day since first opening in mid-April, according to Farley.

That’s about 30 percent more than 1,250 patients per month that were initially expected.

The vast majority of patients seen at the 24-hour Middletown Emergency Department have been walk-ins, with less than 7 percent arriving via ambulance.

Farley said that fits with the Middletown Emergency Department’s role as an intermediate emergency care center, which specializes in treating serious – but not life-threatening – injuries and illnesses.

“Our goal is for a patient’s average length of stay to be about an hour,” she said. “That’s different from a trauma center at a hospital, where you might be waiting a couple of hours because you’re behind other patients who are suffering from life-threatening injuries.”

While a patient in pain might not care much about the distinctions between an emergency department, a trauma center or a medical aid unit, Christina Care Health System is hoping to clear up some of the misconceptions about what the new 36,500-square-foot Middletown Emergency Department offers.

“For instance, some people think we’re medical aid unit that’s only open certain hours, which isn’t the case,” Farley said. “On the other end, there are people who think we’re a free-standing hospital, and they’re surprised when we tell them they have to be transferred because we’ve determined they need to be admitted.”

The Middletown Emergency Department functions somewhat differently from Christiana Care Health System’s urgent care medical aid units, like the Middletown CareCenter on Sleepy Hollow Drive, and a full-fledged hospital that can admit patients overnight.

The Middletown Emergency Department is intended to handle the treatment of broken bones, concussions, pneumonia, appendicitis, lacerations and other ailments that require immediate attention, but are not considered life-threatening.

Patients who suffering from life-threatening injuries, such as those sustained from gunshots or major automobile crashes, are typically transported via ambulance or helicopter to Christiana Hospital, which offers the only Level I trauma center in the state.

Exceptions are made for patients in cardiac or respiratory arrest, who require immediate attention at the closest facility.

“We treat everyone that walks in the door, but for patients who need advanced trauma care or to be admitted to a hospital, that might mean stabilizing them and then transferring them to Christiana,” explained Nurse Manager Kara Streets. “That’s why we have the helicopter pad outside, and we’ve had to use it several times already.”

Christiana Hospital is also where patients would be kept for overnight observation or extended stays. Middletown Emergency Department does not have overnight beds available at this time, although they could be added in the future.

Conversely, the Middletown Emergency Department is set up to handle more immediate issues than a medical aid unit, which is designed to handle non-emergency patients and has set hours of operation.

The Middletown Emergency Department also offers a higher level of lab and screening services than its sister medical aid units.

“We have outpatient lab services six days a week, a phlebotomist on site between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., as well as two x-ray suites, a CT scan room and an ultrasound suite,” Farley said. “Having those on site means the turnaround time for running tests is wonderful, which helps us keep our patients’ length of stay down”