When Ed Epperson's son played in a football game against Dayton's Dust Devils, he realized with a chill that if a player injured himself, there was no emergency room nearby to which to take the hurt player. The closest ER, at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, was 12 miles - or a 15-minute drive - away. In a life-or-death situation, those minutes could be critical.
All that is about to change.
Construction on a 27,000-square-foot critical-access hospital and ER in Dayton is expected to start in late May, with a completion date in late 2006.
"We felt the time was right," said Epperson, CEO of Carson-Tahoe Hospital. "At first, we'll offer basic health-care services so Dayton has some in-patient and emergency services."
The two-story hospital, costing $14 million, will be connected to the existing 18,000-square-foot C-TH Dayton Professional Building at 2450 Highway 50 E. by a second-floor walkway.
"If Dayton keeps growing this fast, the day when Dayton's population surpasses Carson's isn't far off," Epperson said.
The Dayton hospital, being built by Carson-Tahoe Hospital, will offer walk-in patient emergency services, X-rays, ultrasound, mammography and CAT scans. The Professional Building already provides dental, gastrointestinal and gynecological services.
The hospital's chief operating officer, Kevin Sandsbury, lives in Dayton.
"We want to build a hospital that Dayton can be proud of," he said.
The hospital expansion will include six in-patient beds, a pharmacy and a laboratory. Neither surgeries nor baby deliveries will be performed there. Patients needing hospital care longer than three days will be moved to the new regional medical center or Reno.
"Lyon County ranks last in the state in terms of per capita health-care spending," Epperson said.
"It also has the lowest physician-per-capita ratio. Hopefully, this hospital will address both those issues."
The emergency room in Dayton will have a doctor on call 12 hours a day and a physician's assistant on call 24 hours. The hospital is expected to create at least 100 jobs in the area, Sandsbury said.
"It's nice to know that there's an ER close by, especially when traffic is bad and they're doing construction on the freeway," Epperson said.
The Dayton emergency room won't qualify as a trauma center, so patients requiring serious medical attention will be transported to Carson City or Reno.
Epperson said the hospital will draw health-care specialists to Dayton, enabling patients to stay closer to home. Specialists will be able to rent out space in the hospital and come out to Dayton once or twice a month, depending on the demand.
The blueprints for the hospital call for eight private-patient rooms. "If we get more volume, those rooms can become semi-private so we can accommodate more patients," Epperson said.
Epperson and Sandsbury are awaiting state approval to break ground on the project. After it's built, the hospital will apply for critical-access status from the federal government, which entitles it to "cost-based reimbursement" tax dollars. Critical-access hospitals offer limited yet much-needed medical services in rural areas.
Community members all recognize the need for an emergency room in Dayton.
"We don't have enough physicians, and we don't have enough doctors' offices," said Kathy Richardson, Dayton Viewpark Assisted Living's office supervisor.
"It gives us another option," said Bob Kielty, training officer with the Central Lyon County Fire Department. "Walk-in EMS patients can go there, instead of being transported to Carson."
Transporting patients out of Dayton will also become easier, as the new hospital will boast a helipad for helicopter landings.
Dayton Senior Center director Kelly Crossman said the emergency room would benefit all seniors in Dayton.
"I think it is great service that will be widely utilized," she said. "I'm glad it's finally coming to Dayton because we definitely need it."
The new hospital would offer a host of services, including:
• Six in-patient beds
(hospital stays would be limited to 96 hours)
• Emergency room with a physician's assistant on call 24 hours a day
• Helipad to airlift patients to Carson City or Reno
• Per-diem suites that health specialists can rent out
• X-rays, ultrasound, mammography and CAT scans