St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka recently opened a new five bed observation unit at the main campus in Eureka. The opening of the unit is part of a strategy to provide additional beds for patients whose conditions can be treated in a short hospital stay.
The primary goal in “observation status” is to stabilize conditions requiring hospitalization within the first 24 hours of the patient stay. Unlike patients who are admitted to the hospital for longer lengths of stay of three to five days or more, patients with readily treatable conditions can be quickly stabilized with treatment in observation and then released from the hospital.
“There are a number of patients whose treatment gets started in the emergency department, but who still need a short period of hospitalization to ensure the treatment is effectively working to stabilize their condition.” said Dr. William Parks, Chief Medical Officer, St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County. “If their symptoms are manageable or respond quickly, they can go home sooner.”
One example of a condition that can be treated in observation status is dehydration from vomiting, which requires IV fluids along with anti-nausea medications. Another example is the early diagnosis of simple, uncomplicated infections which require IV antibiotics. The most common condition treated in observation is chest pain, not caused by a heart attack. This requires an EKG (heart tracing), multiple laboratory studies and possibly a stress test procedure.
The observation unit will be staffed by a physician (and/or advance practice provider) as well as two
ED nurses. Patients will have the ability to have family members at their bedside during their stay. The observation unit is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Construction is currently under way to increase the number of beds to seven.
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