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At one year, VCU Health Emergency Center at New Kent proves a boon to local health care

Resident recalls how having a local ER saved his life.

Emergency sign Photo: Getty Images

By James Shea

Robert Glaubke and his wifeIt was a Monday night in March, and New Kent resident Robert Glaubke and his wife were settling in to watch “Antiques Roadshow” — something they did every Monday night. Suddenly Glaubke felt a tightness in his chest. As the pain worsened, he knew he had to act immediately. He had his wife, Amy, call 911.

“I knew exactly what it was,” Glaubke said.

Before retiring to New Kent two years ago, Glaubke had spent 30 years working in a Norfolk fire/rescue department. He knew well the symptoms of a heart attack.

Acting fast is essential

During a heart attack, the sooner you restore blood flow to the heart, the less likely it is to sustain major damage. Thanks to last year’s opening of the VCU Health Emergency Center at New Kent, Glaubke received life-saving treatment within minutes of his wife’s calling 911. He credits the center with saving his life.

“If they were not there, I would not be here,” Glaubke said. “I would have died on the way to the hospital in an ambulance.”

The professionals at New Kent performed CPR on Glaubke and began other treatments, including administering life-saving drugs. They quickly drove him by ambulance to VCU Medical Center in downtown Richmond. Upon arrival, he was rushed into surgery, where a stent was placed in his heart.

“Everything was done before my wife and daughter even got to the hospital,” Glaubke said.

Community had sought increased health care for years

Located 20 minutes southeast of Richmond, the freestanding VCU Health Emergency Center at New Kent is a valuable addition to health care in the region. Its one-year anniversary was June 1. All clinicians are trained in emergency medicine, and X-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans are available for quick diagnoses.

“This area around New Kent had been what you might call a health care desert,” said Chris York, nurse manager at VCU Emergency Center at New Kent. “This facility puts an emergency center right in the backyard of New Kent County residents.  They do not have to go 30 to 60 minutes to receive emergency care. It’s designed to serve an underserved population in that area.”

For several years, county officials had been seeking a hospital or emergency room facility and had engaged in conversations with several regional health care systems. Before the facility opened, patients like Glaubke would have had to drive to Williamsburg, Mechanicsville or Richmond for emergency services.

New Kent County Administrator Rodney Hathaway said county officials realized that VCU Health offered county residents the best chance of receiving quality medical care and offered to work with the health system on a new facility.

“We felt VCU had more to offer and would be a great partnership,” Hathaway said.

Besides the economic benefits and increased access to health care, Hathaway said the new center also decreases the burden on the county’s ambulance service. Prior to the opening of the New Kent center, patients often had to rely on nearby counties for ambulance service. New Kent ambulances spent a lot of time taking patients to regional hospitals, knocking them out of commission for additional patients.

“Transporting patients to a hospital can put one of our units [ambulances] out of service for up to two hours,” Hathaway said. “We are a small department, and prior to opening the ER, it was common to have times when units in the county were not available.”

Patient numbers continue to grow

The New Kent facility was originally scheduled to open in spring of 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic. The facility began accepting patients June 1. In its first year of operation, it saw 8,651 patients, an average of 721 a month.

“The freestanding ER at New Kent has been a welcome addition to the community,” said Lisa Dodd, D.O., medical director of VCU Health Emergency Center at New Kent. “It’s allowed VCU to bring services closer to the community. Now, people who may not have otherwise been able to get access to good medical care can get good care.”

Dodd said a freestanding emergency room is a valuable way to provide health care in an underserved community. The center can begin emergency treatment, prepare a patient for transport to a hospital and provide outpatient services not offered at an urgent care or primary care physician’s office, such as CT scans and ultrasounds.

“What people are finding is that you don’t necessarily need a whole hospital in each community,” Dodd said. “But by putting a freestanding ER locally, you are making care more accessible to people, and you can start treatment more quickly. There are very few surgical procedures that have to be done in a matter of minutes.”

Dodd said Glaubke is a great example of how the location of the center is saving lives. Glaubke was able to get the care he needed within minutes.

Patient feedback positive

Surveys completed by patients after visiting the center have shown that people in the community appreciate the care and access the center brings.

“Since we opened up the door everyone has been super supportive of us being here,” Dodd said. “We are told daily how important we are to the community.”

Thomas W. Evelyn, chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, expressed his appreciation. “I can say on behalf of the citizens and local government agencies that this facility has brought a much needed service to the county and has greatly improved turnaround time for our fire and EMS staff.  We look forward to continuing our partnership with VCU Health system for many years to come.”

Glaubke is grateful for a second chance to spend time with his family in New Kent, including his two grandchildren. To help prevent future heart attacks, he’s changed his diet, exercises and is receiving rehabilitation services. Each day he’s getting stronger.

“I'm so thankful for the care that those people were able to provide,” Glaubke said.

The VCU Health Emergency Center at New Kent is located at 2495 Pocahontas Trail, Quinton, Va.

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