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Oklahoma City losing an ER as hospital changes function

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City is losing an emergency room as St. Michael's Hospital changes to a psychiatric treatment center for geriatric patients.

``You can't go there even to get your finger stitched up or to check your child's high temperature,'' said hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Archiniaco. ``You will have to go to some other facility; it will no longer be an independent, free-standing hospital.''

The emergency room at St. Michael's permanently closes Tuesday night, but many patients have been taken elsewhere for several weeks. The hospital received approval about a month ago from the state Health Department to reduce the emergency room and discontinue ambulance service for the rest of the year.

Since the ambulance service was discontinued, hospital staff have treated about 300 walk-in patients a month. At one time, St. Michael had treated up to 3,000 emergency room patients monthly.

Some of the patients have been diverted to nearby Physicians Hospital of Oklahoma and Integris Southwest Medical Center. Integris spokesman Damon Gardenhire said the shift was so gradual that it was not overwhelming.

``We feel that steady increase equipped us in many ways to deal with the shutdown because we were able to adjust to it gradually,'' Gardenhire said.

Saint Michael is owned by SSM Health of Oklahoma, which also operates St. Anthony Hospital and three other metro-area hospitals. Saint Michael is consolidating with St. Anthony and will become a branch campus of St. Anthony.

About 75 beds at St. Michael will be devoted to geriatric-psychiatry care for patients with dementia, depression and other mental health problems.

Archiniaco said she expects the hospital will serve the entire city because there is a shortage of facilities that offer such specialized care for the elderly.
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