Garner Healthplex opens Monday, Aug. 19

kjahner@newsobserver.comAugust 14, 2013 

Dr. Erik Manring works on a simulation with nurses at WakeMed's new Garner Healthplex less than two weeks before it opens.


Dr. Erik Manring and several nurses gathered around a patient. One nurse administered CPR. Another operated a defibrillator. Manring coordinated the effort.

Despite the urgent, cohesive actions of the team, the patient did not live. That is not surprising; the patient made of rubber and other synthetic materials was merely a simulation-training mannequin.

But starting Monday at 7 a.m., the newly constructed Garner WakeMed Healthplex will be open to real patients, providing the town of Garner with its first emergency care facility.

“We’re expecting to be very busy from day one,” said Oral Wise, director of ambulatory services for WakeMed. “We’ve already seen three patients walk in here and we’re not even open yet.”

Signs saying “Emergency” were even covered by plastic to quell the early confusion.

Before the emergency department opens on Monday, WakeMed will host a grand opening celebration on Saturday, Aug. 17 for the public. It will include a free pancake breakfast from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. WakeMed will offer tours of the facility, live music, and activities for children including crafts, games, tours of emergency vehicles and a “teddy bear clinic” for children.

The hospital broke ground in September, with an expected completion date in August. It has stuck to an Aug. 19 opening for most of that period.

With a little more than a week to go, medical professionals were completing dry-runs in one room while construction workers drilled and hammered at some finishing touches next door. Wise and Manring, the director of medicine for the Healthplex, said the facility serves an underserved, high-growth area.

“If you look at how busy we are in Raleigh, we’ve got a lot of patients that come from Garner because they have nowhere else to go,” Manring said.

The Healthplex will offer a trio of services: a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week emergency department, a laboratory and imaging services ranging from MRI to CAT scan to X-rays. It will be equipped to deal with the majority of emergencies seen at any other hospital.

“Any emergency, we’ll be ready to take care of,” said Manring of WakeMed Doctors, the Healthplex’s medical director. “(At) most freestanding emergency departments, about 94 percent (of the patients) we’re able to treat and take care of, and they would (be) discharged. It’s only 6-7 percent that would need to be sent to a main hospital.”

It does not have inpatient rooms or an operating room. Wake County EMS will not take in patients who have heart emergencies, trauma injuries that will requiring emergency surgery, or women in labor. But the hospital can triage and transport walk-in patients with such emergencies. In fact the WakeMed helicopter will now be stationed at the Garner Healthplex.

The second floor of the facility will house three medical practices. Carolina Cardiology’s Garner office will move into the Healthplex on Sept. 23. A primary care practice, Garner Primary Care, will also open the same day. An ENT (ear nose throat) Head and Neck Surgery practice will open on Oct. 1.

Home cooking

Karen Weaver of Garner will be one of the 175 employees at the facility, many from Garner and many pulled from WakeMed facilities elsewhere. The registered nurse moved from being a supervisor at Brier Creek’s Healthplex to the manager of emergency services in Garner, a promotion combined with a commute slashed to 5 miles.

“Half my staff, at least, lives in Garner,” Weaver said. “I think having that connection with your community and the people, you’re going to have the expectation of your staff that they’re going to give that excellent care, because you are going to see them out in the supermarket.”

The 50,000-square-foot complex cost $17 million – plus about $800,000 to furnish and equip the second-floor practices – and is located on U.S. 70 about a mile west of the intersection with I-40.

The emergency department has 12 rooms surrounding the nursing station, and some additional rooms could be converted should the area’s growth dictate further expansion. WakeMed expects to treat 12,000-15,000 patients in the first year with steady growth in the coming decade.

HealthPlexes are already open in Apex, North Raleigh and Brier Creek. WakeMed also has a hospital in Cary and other non-emergency outpatient centers around the Triangle.

Jahner: 919-829-4822

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