ER Wait Time: 17 minutes | If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark opened a new unit in the Emergency Department for patients who have minor injuries or illnesses.

The Fast Track unit will help reduce overall wait times for all patients who seek care in the hospital’s Emergency Department, said Dr. Kevin Edwards, the medical director of the Emergency Department.

Saint Michael’s already has among the shortest wait times in Greater Newark, according to statistics compiled by Medicare. In the last report available on Medicare’s Hospital Compare, the average time patients spent in the emergency department before they were seen by a healthcare professional was 30 minutes.

Since then, the time has been reduced to 20 minutes as a result of a number of changes in the emergency department and Edwards said the hospital is striving to do even better.

“Our goal is to ensure all of our patients receive the highest level care within minutes of entering the emergency department,” Edwards said. “We will provide even more efficient care so patients can have their medical problems addressed without spending their day waiting.”

The Emergency Department at Saint Michael’s is a point of pride for the hospital, which was purchased by Prime Healthcare in May 2016. The Emergency Department was rebuilt as part of an addition to the hospital several years ago and offers private treatment bays and two resuscitation rooms with state-of-the-art equipment.

“Having a dedicated Fast Track unit will allow us to better serve our patients,” said Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Bisco-Flora. “Our number one priority in the Emergency Department is to deliver medical care to patients quickly.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held to mark the opening of the Fast Track unit, which is located in a previously unused portion of the main Emergency Department.

Among those in attendance were Saint Michael’s CEO Robert Iannaccone; Central Ward Councilman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, Harrison Mayor James Fife; Dr. Mark Wade, the director of Health and Community Wellness for the City of Newark, Mary Beth Boger, the dean of Students and Campus Life and the Rev. Ronald Slaughter, the chairman of Saint Michael’s board and the pastor of St. James AME.

“The opening of the Fast Track ER is another example of Saint Michaels commitment to the community since Prime Healthcare took ownership,” Slaughter said. “By opening this Fast Track, Saint Michael’s is sending a message to the Greater Newark community that we are a hospital that genuinely cares for your health, but also values your time.”

Also in attendance at the ribbon cutting were members of various ambulance crews from the Greater Newark area.

The Fast Track unit was blessed by the Msgr. Manuel Cruz, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, who confessed that he worked as an orderly in an emergency room to pay his way through seminary school.

“It is the best job to be in an emergency room to be a source of strength and healing,” said Cruz, a member of the hospital’s board and who also served for many years as the chaplain of Saint Michael’s.

Edwards, who joined Saint Michael’s in July, graduated from New Jersey Medical School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and acquired board certification in Emergency Medicine at Morristown Medical Center.

He previously served as an emergency medicine attending physician at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut and Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., among others.

Edwards said the new Fast Track unit will allow the Emergency Department to free up space for patients who in need of more critical care.

When patients arrive in the Emergency Department, they will be assessed within minutes. If the triage staff determines the patient has a minor injury or illness, they will be sent to the Fast Track unit, which can treat a wide variety of non-life threatening illnesses.

The Fast Track unit will have five exam rooms and a transitional waiting room, where patients can go while they wait for lab results or diagnostic imagery. Edwards said patients who aren’t critically injured do not need to occupy an exam room while they wait, which means another bed can be freed up for the next patient.

The Fast Track unit will also free up beds in the main Emergency Department for patients who are more critically ill, which will help reduce waiting times for those patients as well. The changes will also help reduce wait times for EMTs.

“We turned what was an unused section of the hospital into a refreshing, nice Fast Track ER,” Edwards said. “It should help tremendously improve the efficiency with which we work and the great care we can provide to patients with low-acuity emergencies.”