Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

HCA opens first local 'seniors ER' at St. Petersburg General

ST. PETERSBURG — Emergency room patients come in all ages, but St. Petersburg General Hospital decided to focus a makeover on one group: seniors.

The hospital, owned by national chain HCA, recently unveiled new senior-friendly details in its emergency department. They include:

• Four treatment rooms outfitted with softer lighting, thicker mattresses and nonskid floors.

• A separate waiting area.

• Three seniors-only parking spaces close to the ER doors.

St. Petersburg General's remodeled ER wing is more evidence of how HCA has turned up the marketing of its ER services. The company recently put up a "Seniority Matters" billboard that advertises the new amenities to the patients who, thanks to Medicare, are far more likely to carry health insurance than younger people.

The changes cost about $50,000, said Diane Conti, director of the hospital's emergency department.

In addition, the ER staff was retrained about geriatric care, such as screening for dementia, managing medications and asking carefully worded questions to understand what the patient's home environment is like.

"As people get older, they are very reluctant to say they need help," Conti said.

St. Petersburg General's seniors ER is the first in HCA's west Florida division, though the company has opened several elsewhere in Florida. BayCare Health System, the Tampa Bay's largest hospital provider, doesn't have a formal seniors-only ER but offers many services that elders need, said spokeswoman Beth Hardy. They include valet parking, patient care technicians who can work closely with them, and accommodations for diminished hearing and eyesight.

"We train for all populations," Hardy said.

Seniors-only emergency rooms could be the next trend, though it's too early to tell if it's a "fad or wise planning," says a report this year from the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit health research organization. No one tracks the numbers, but researchers used news articles to estimate that more than 50 have opened since 2011, with another 150 in development.

There's also great variety in what they look like. One hospital spent $3.2 million on its seniors ER. Some do more than train the staff; they assign geriatric care specialists to those ER patients.

Recent changes under the federal Affordable Care Act make the new seniors ER potentially more relevant. Backers hope that providing specialized care to elders can reduce readmissions and improve patient satisfaction. Under the law, hospitals are penalized by Medicare for having increasing readmission rates for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients.

Contact Jodie Tillman at or (813) 226-3374.

HCA opens first local 'seniors ER' at St. Petersburg General 08/28/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2014 11:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tributes pour in for ex-national security adviser Brzezinski


    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  2. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  3. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  4. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  5. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)