Has come to town this month, and what an E.R...

A NEW "E.R."

December 14, 1997

A NEW "E.R." has come to town this month, and what an E.R. it is. This is not a fictionalized television emergency room, but a $16 million, 34,500-square-foot cutting-edge "emergency center" at Sinai Hospital that intends to break from the old E.R. concepts.

Everyone dreads visiting an emergency room. The trauma of the waiting room -- and the wait -- is often worse than the reason for being there.

Sinai decided to ask patients and their families what's wrong with emergency rooms. Then they modeled their "ER-7" on customer complaints. The result is a marvel of individualized care for both patients and families.

As you drive up to the circular main entrance (there's a side entrance for ambulances), a greeter helps the patient into the pavillion, where a nurse takes key information and whisks the patient to one of seven specialized care centers, each with its own staff.

The family, meanwhile, can use one of 22 private waiting areas, equipped with plush chairs, a sofa, an entertainment center with TV, music and video programming -- and access to concierge service to help with nonmedical concerns by way of a videophone.

The treatment centers are well equipped, too, to give medical care quickly and to give overnight attention to patients not quite sick enough to warrant a regular hospital stay. This could save a lot of money and provide a welcome form of intermediate medical care.

Sinai hopes to start a trend in its attempt to reinvent the emergency center.

It also hopes to broaden its appeal to folks who need medical care but not on an urgent, nearest-hospital basis.

If it succeeds, look for other area hospitals to adopt this approach to making medical treatment more customer-friendly.

THE FATHER was shot down twice as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He has flown MedEvac helicopters for the Washington Hospital System. He yielded chairmanship of the Anne Arundel County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to serve in Operation Desert Storm.

So, state Sen. John C. Astle must have asked himself, how is it possible that his 23-year-old son is the one to die prematurely?

David Astle was killed last weekend when the car in which he was traveling flipped while swerving to miss a deer. Our condolences to the Astle family on their wrenching loss.

Days after that accident, employees of this newspaper company were stricken by the sudden death of Charles J. Bowman, 66, a courier for Homestead Publishing Co., which publishes The Aegis and is owned by The Sun. He was killed when his delivery vehicle was hit head-on by a truck that crossed a center line near Aberdeen, police said.

There is no particular reason for a sequence of traffic fatalities to mar a mild December, but they have arrived in a wave and in shocking variety:

Three people were killed and a family injured when their vehicles collided near Arcadia at the Carroll-Baltimore County line.

An 80-year-old woman was struck by a tractor-trailer at dawn on U.S. 50 near Annapolis, apparently while taking a break on a cross-country trip to walk her dog.

A Prince George's woman died after her car followed another out of a restaurant lot, over a sea wall and into the Port Tobacco River.

The tragedies were the product of an array of causes -- drunken driving, failure to wear seat belts, carelessness. They elicit sorrow and this admonition: Please use extra caution while driving this busy season.

REMEMBER THAT deal to split Conrail between CSX and Norfolk Southern? The deal that was supposed to divide the East between those two mega-giants of the rail freight industry?

The deal was struck last March. But don't look for the consummation any time soon.

Even though nearly all disputes have been resolved, the Surface Transportation Board won't hold its hearing on this matter until June 8, 1998. After the hearing, the board won't print its written decision for another six weeks. No wonder government costs so much, given its leisurely consideration of important matters.

There's more. After the board's decision is printed, another 30 days are allotted for appeals. That places the "control date" when NS and CSX can gain full access to Conrail's books at Aug. 22.

Even then, it will take up to four months to integrate the rail lines.

At this pace, it will be two full years before Marylanders feel the impact of the Conrail takeover. Time surely crawls when regulatory red tape gets spun.

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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