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Ohio State opens emergency room with space for cancer patients

The Abercrombie & Fitch emergency department is one of the country's first cancer emergency departments.  Credit: Courtesy of OSU

The Abercrombie & Fitch emergency department is one of the country’s first cancer emergency departments.
Credit: Courtesy of OSU

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center has opened one of the country’s first emergency departments that specializes in normal emergency medicine and emergency cancer medicine.

This integrated emergency department was developed as part of the Medical Center expansion project, which began in June 2010 and is the largest expansion project in OSU’s history. The project cost nearly $1 billion, a portion of which was designated for the emergency department, said Dr. Richard Goldberg, physician-in-chief at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

The facility — named the Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency Department — consists of 15 treatment stations. Goldberg said it has physicians available for traditional emergency scenarios as well as oncologists specialized for the urgent medical needs of cancer patients.

“Cancer patients are undergoing chemotherapy and when they undergo heart attacks, strokes, etc., we want to be able to provide services to suit their anticipated needs,” said Dr. Thomas Terndrup, chair of emergency medicine. “Traditional emergency departments are either strictly for cancer patients and not others with these conditions, or for others and not cancer patients.” 

The emergency department is designed to begin the evaluation and treatment of all patients as soon as they arrive to eliminate the chaotic waiting process, Terndrup said. 

“We understand patients come in and don’t want to go through the tiresome waiting process. We want to go ahead and start assessing the patient, do an EKG, do laboratory studies, or give medication for pain right away,” he said. 

Integrative medicine ­— which in this case means combining normal emergency medicine with emergency cancer medicine — is believed to be a strong path for the future of medicine, Goldberg said. 

Other university medical centers, such as the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, have integrative medicine programs. OSU, however, is one of the first to have a fully staffed emergency department with cancer specialists equipped for all patient needs, Terndrup said. 

Anna Askari, a first-year medical student in OSU’s College of Medicine, said she is impressed but not surprised by this advancement at the Medical Center.

“It’s promising to see the use of the emergency room as a way to facilitate communication between the oncologist and the emergency room physician, so the patient and their family don’t have to explain everything during an already stressful time,” Askari said. 

Medical students are taught the value in individualized care for all patients, something Askari said is evident by the move toward in-depth, integrative and team-based healthcare. 

Being an academic university with a medical center is what has allowed oncologists who specialize in various types of cancer to become involved and better serve patients and their families, Goldberg said. 

Areas of the emergency department are still being renovated. It is expected to be complete by March 2015, Terndrup said.

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