Staff prepares the new Super Track unit at Long Beach Memorial for an anticipated June opening, Thursday, April 1, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Long wait times are not a foreign concept to anyone who has visited an emergency room, whether the trip ended up being warranted or not. For the last decade, Long Beach Memorial has been working to decrease wait times through its Fast Track unit.

The idea is simple: Immediately triage patients into three tiers based on the acuity of their condition and have dedicated staff and resources ready to quickly treat and discharge those with less severe injuries and illnesses. This in turn also reduces wait times for patients with more severe maladies by alleviating any bottlenecks.

While successful in its mission, the Fast Track unit has been set up in temporary quarters since its inception. But that is going to change in June when construction of a permanent space is completed, with aspirations of decreasing wait times even further, Long Beach Memorial COO Ike Mmeje said.

“We will have a new process established that really builds on what we had with the Fast Track and makes it more of a Super Track,” Mmeje said, adding that the new facility will allow staff to triage patients more quickly and take them through a six-stage process for more efficient treatment across the board.

The goal is to decrease total time in the emergency room to one hour for low-acuity patients, two hours for moderate-acuity patients and three hours for high-acuity patients, according to Emergency Department Director Elizabeth Reid. More severe patients naturally require more time because of additional testing and treatment requirements.

The one-hour goal for low-acuity patients, which makes up about 25% of emergency room visits, is not an easy accomplishment, Reid said. The old Fast Track unit did not decrease times to that level.

The Super Track will be a vast improvement from the old Fast Track, Mmeje said, noting the previous space had temporary dividers and far less privacy. The $2.1 million project incorporates all the space from the former unit as well as some additional square footage, which will make it more spacious, bright and private.

Reid said no additional staff would need to be hired to operate the new space.

“We’re trying to enhance the patient experience and save resources through efficiency,” Reid said. “We recognized some opportunities, especially for the lower-acuity patients to be treated and discharged in a way that keeps them up front and away from the higher-acuity patients in the back.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.