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'Vertical Bays' Help Patients Get Faster Care at Cape ER

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health


fast track ribbon cutting photoThe staff at Cape Coral Hospital enjoy a ribbon-cutting for a new ER vertical bay.

As our area’s population continues to bulge at the seams, the lines at the grocery store, mail-service shops, dry cleaners, and other places of business are getting longer.

Call it an acceptable trade-off for living in one of the most desirable locations in the country.

However, when you’re in pain and need urgent medical diagnosis and treatment, waiting is unacceptable.

That’s why last month, Lee Health's Cape Coral Hospital Emergency Department (ED) installed six new “vertical” bays to help shorten patient wait times.

“Lee Health recognizes the ever-increasing demands for healthcare services, especially emergent medical care needs, because of our population boom,” says Dr. Tim Dougherty, medical director and chairman of the Emergency Department at Lee Health Cape Coral Hospital. “The bays will help us treat patients who require urgent medical treatment quicker while we’re treating patients with life-threatening conditions at the same time in our main department.

Dr. Dougherty describes the bays, located next to the emergency department’s waiting area, as “fast-track vertical bays” that provide a more comfortable and private space for patients.

“Vertical bays offer enough space for the patient and a family member to walk in and sit upright in a chair/recliner, rather than lie down on a bed,” he explains. “In a fast-track bay, people typically aren’t sick enough to need to lie down on a bed."

Fast-track is exactly what it means, Dr. Dougherty says. “The goal is to see more patients and move them through the ED quickly so they can get back home faster.”

Before the bays were installed, visitors to the emergency department would often have to wait in hallways of the ED and other overflow areas when the waiting room was full, a common occurrence during busy snowbird season. Lee Health and other community medical facilities are all facing the same challenge: how to increase capacity to meet our area’s rapidly growing healthcare needs.

One solution: the new ED vertical bays. They’re an example of Lee Health’s ongoing mission to put patients and their families first, Dr. Dougherty says.

He says the vertical bays offer a number of patient benefits, including ample privacy in a relaxed space.

“Each bay is its own area with three walls and separated by a curtain for privacy, and featuring a soothing, beach-themed mural to help put the patient more at ease. Also, there’s room and a chair for a family member to sit and provide support, too.”

fast track photo

Patient Experience

The key to providing an exceptional patient experience is starting treatment as soon as the patient walks through the ED doors, Dr. Dougherty notes.

When you come into the ED, a nurse specially trained in emergency critical care will greet you, take your complaint, and record your vital signs. Based on those findings and medical condition, the ED nurse will prioritize your visit.

“If, for example, you visit the ED because you think you broke your hand, the nurse will order an X-ray of your hand and find a bed for you. If a bed is not immediately available and you are not in acute distress, you’ll be taken to one of the vertical bays and a provider will see you,” Dr. Dougherty says.

Patients may start in one of the bays and then return to the waiting area while their tests and lab work are processed or if they are being admitted to the hospital.

“If a bay isn’t available, you’ll return to the waiting room until one becomes available. The key is that your treatment has started: the X-ray has been ordered and your tests and lab work are being processed. Our goal is shorten your ED stay and return you to the comfort of your home as quickly as possible,” he adds.

Dr. Dougherty explains that the ED also has two acute care areas for more seriously ill patients such as those who may be exhibiting signs of a stroke or heart attack.

“One advantage of Cape Coral Hospital ED has over a free-standing emergency department is that if someone requires hospitalization for a more serious condition, they have immediate access to our specialists in the hospital,” Dr. Dougherty says. “They can be admitted instead of having to be transferred out of the county or to another hospital.”

“We’re excited to be able to have this option for the community and give them a comfortable and calming space where they can receive high-quality care and an improved patient experience,” he says.

When to Visit the ER

Southwest Florida’s population has increased 21.5% since 2010, reports the Lee County Economic Development Office. Between 2020 and 2025, it’s expected to grow by another 12.3%.

Lee Health continues to stay ahead of the curve and meet the healthcare needs of new residents. For example, Cape Coral Hospital ED plans to add 12 beds to its ICU area. Construction plans are happening for a new, free-standing emergency department on the north side of Pine Island Road and a new hospital in Fort Myers as well.

The ED expansion was funded by the Cape Coral Hospital Auxiliary, which contributed $500,000 to the project. The Auxiliary is comprised of community members who donate their time to make a difference for patients, their families and hospital team members.

Symptoms for an ER Visit (not a complete list)

  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Broken bones or dislocated joints
  • Lacerations you think might require stitches
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
  • Fevers and rash
  • Head and eye injuries
  • Sudden change in mental state

Our Services

  • Advanced cardiac and stroke care
  • Level II adult trauma
  • Onsite lab
  • Imaging including CT scans and X-rays
  • Surgery
  • Tests

Pediatric ED: The Right Time to Visit

Caregivers should bring a child to the Emergency Department for any severe illness, accident, or any condition that makes them uncomfortable.

Please discuss options with your primary care doctor if you’re unsure.

Conditions that normally need emergency care:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Severe abdominal or chest pain
  • Life-threatening injury
  • Suspected broken bones
  • Trouble breathing or changing color
  • Fever accompanied with nausea and vomiting
  • If your baby is under 3 months old and has a fever
  • If your child has a fever of 104 or higher
  • Sudden dizziness and a change in vision
  • Falls from a significant height
  • Lacerations
  • Seizures
  • Poisoning
  • A vehicle accident that leaves a child bleeding, unconscious, or unresponsive

Find an Emergency Department Near You

Emergency Care - Cape Coral Hospital
636 Del Prado Blvd.
Cape Coral, FL 33990
Get Directions

Trauma & Emergency Center - Gulf Coast Medical Center
13681 Doctors Way 
Fort Myers, FL 33912
Get Directions

Emergency Care - HealthPark Medical Center
9981 S HealthPark Dr.
Fort Myers, FL 33908
Get Directions

Emergency Care - Lee Memorial Hospital
2780 Cleveland Ave., Suite 702
Fort Myers, FL 33901
Get Directions

Emergency Care - Lee Health Coconut Point
23450 Via Coconut Point
Estero, FL 33928
Get Directions

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