On one recent afternoon, all eight patient rooms in Whitefish’s emergency department were occupied, seven patients were in the waiting room, and two ambulances were en route.
It’s no surprise that that the busiest months for the emergency department are July and August. With visitors and second home owners in town the volume of patients spikes in the summer months. Like local businesses, Logan Health Whitefish’s Emergency Department gears up for the summer by increasing staff.
“We have a great team and we’ve been able to adjust our staffing to manage volumes,” said Debbie Mulcahy Director of Critical care and Seasonal Clinics at Logan Health Whitefish. “It’s a tremendous team effort between the providers, nurses, and technicians to take care of everyone quickly.”
Typically, the busiest time is between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. and shifts overlap during those hours to maximize the number of staff at the ready for incoming patients.
Once triaged, or sorted according to their level of urgency, the patient is taken to a treatment room to undergo tests and treatment. Some are then released, others admitted, and still others kept for observation.
With the valley’s growing population, overall patient volumes have steadily increased over the past few years and summer consistently remains the peak season. Last month the emergency room averaged 43 patients a day, in comparison, April is the slowest month averaging 29 per day.
Medical emergencies cover a spectrum of situations. Sudden onset of illness with symptoms ranging from difficulty breathing or chest pain, to severe head or abdominal pain, will prompt a visit to the emergency department.
Trauma—broken bones, deep cuts, concussions—also spike in the summer. Motor vehicle accidents and recreational activities are among the culprits; however, the vast majority of trauma cases are caused by falls. In fact, falls are consistently the leading cause of trauma at both the Whitefish and Kalispell emergency departments.
“So far in 2023, 31% of the trauma patients suffered a ground level fall,” said Becky Cox, Trauma Coordinator for the emergency department. “Many of these falls are preventable. We are planning to host classes this September to educate community members how to prevent falls.”
For minor injuries and illnesses, a walk-in care clinic can also provide appropriate care. Staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants and some by physicians, walk-in care providers treat a variety of ailments and cost less than a visit in the emergency department. Walk-in care clinics do not require appointments, or referrals. If the illness or injury are too severe for the clinic, they will send the patient to the emergency department.
What to expect at LHW’s Emergency Department:
- Expect to wait, especially during the summer peak season.
- Patients arriving by ambulance at LHW are delivered directly into the emergency department through the ambulance doors.
- Patients arriving without an ambulance enter through the North Entrance (facing Big Mountain). Once inside the emergency department is the first door on the right (look for the red EMERGENCY sign).
- At registration, patients will be asked their name, date of birth and chief complaint.
- At some point during a visit patients may be asked for a phone number; in case the emergency physician needs to follow up, as well as insurance or Medicaid information if they have it.
Logan Health Whitefish’s Emergency Department is open 24-hour, 7 days a week. Call 911 or to drive to 1600 Hospital Way. For a list of walk-in care clinic locations and hours visit logan.org/walkincare. Keep an eye out for our Fall Prevention classes this Fall at logan.org/health/calendar.