A look inside Northern NV's first-ever freestanding emergency department

RENO, Nev. — When the coronavirus pandemic took hold this spring, hospitals, medical clinics and ERs across the country were forced to quickly adapt to operating in the age of a COVID-19.

From having enough proper personal protective equipment to knowing how to properly treat and release contagious patients, healthcare providers on the frontlines adjusted on the fly to help battle the rampant virus.

A new freestanding emergency department slated to open soon in Northwest Reno will not be faced with that issue.

The ER at McCarran NW, an extension of Northern Nevada Medical Center, is well equipped to provide the “highest level of infection control that anybody in the country could offer,” said Dr. Travis Anderson, medical director at NNMC.

Located at 10290 N. McCarran Blvd., the ER at McCarran NW will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Once opened, the facility will become the region’s first freestanding emergency department.

“We have enough information now that we’re not scrambling to catch up on infection control, proper personal protective equipment, how to treat and disposition patients, and what to look for,” Anderson said in an Aug. 17 interview with the NNBW. “Now that we have all of that knowledge, this facility is prepped to see those patients, to be able to quickly decide how sick they are and what treatment they need, as well as reassure them of what their expected outcomes are, and keep them safe.

The exterior of the ER at McCarran NW, a new freestanding emergency department prepared to open at 10290 N. McCarran Blvd. in Northwest Reno.

“So patients are coming to a facility that’s prepared and knows COVID-19.”

In fact, the 10,884-square-foot facility includes two isolation rooms.

“If patients are really sick with COVID-19, it protects them, as well as our staff,” Anderson said.


The ER at McCarran NW, to be clear, was not built in response to the COVID crisis; plans for the facility began years ago when NNMC began analyzing the healthcare needs of fast-growing Reno-Sparks.

After all, the region is projected to swell by more than 100,000 residents over the next 10 years, according to the Northern Nevada Economic Planning Indicators Committee.

“With Tesla and Microsoft and all the other companies bringing in new facilities, we’ve known that it’s growing quite faster than most western communities,” Anderson said.

The ER at McCarran NW in Reno includes a Rapid Medical Evaluation (RME) room with three beds.

The ER at McCarran NW, Anderson said, was strategically located a stone’s throw from Interstate 80 in Northwest Reno, an area that has seen major growth over the last 10 years.

Alabama-based GA Studio/BLOX oversaw construction on the project, which broke ground in 2019, according to NNMC.

“Right now, patients have to go a little bit of a ways to seek emergency care from this area,” Anderson said in reference to Northwest Reno. “And sometimes, because there are so many patients to be seen, they’re waiting long times in the waiting room. And those ERs could be overburdened a lot of the time.

“… This will hopefully alleviate some of that and allow patients to be seen quickly, get cared for appropriately and moved either back home or to another hospital.”


Board-certified physicians and emergency-trained nurses, as well as diagnostic imaging and lab technicians, will staff the ER at McCarran NW, which will primarily serve walk-in patients and is supported by local emergency medical services provider REMSA, according to NNMC.

In all, about 30 staff members, plus several physicians, will rotate at the facility.

One of the exam rooms inside the ER at McCarran NW, which will accommodate all ages and is equipped to take care of all types of patients, according to NNMC.

“We’re fortunate enough to have lots of staff on our bench to bring in at a moment’s notice,” Anderson said. “If we were to see 60-70 a patients a day here, we’re equipped to be able to handle that, and even more.”

As of Aug. 19, the ER at McCarran NW was still awaiting confirmation from the state — which must conduct various procedural inspections and other reviews when it comes to healthcare facilities — before it opens its doors, Anderson noted.

“We’ve cleared every hurdle thus far and the state will tell us when they feel that they’re ready to release their official sign-off,” he said. “We’re ready to open now, we’re just waiting for those confirmations.”


It’s been a busy year for Northern Nevada Medical Center, which remains on track with construction of the first full-service hospital to be built in the region in over a century.

SR Construction crews place the final steel beam on the Northern Nevada Sierra Medical Center complex on Aug. 18.

Northern Nevada Sierra Medical Center, currently being built at Double R Boulevard and Longley Lane in South Reno, reached a construction milestone on Aug. 18 as the final beam of the project’s architectural steel was placed at the height of the building, according to an NNMC press release.

To date, the project consists of 4,000 tons of steel, which make up the framework for the new hospital.

“We are excited to commemorate this construction milestone with our valued client and partners,” Scott Loughridge, CEO of SR Construction, said in an Aug. 18 statement. “It is an honor to be the general contractor for this notable project, and we look forward to celebrating the grand opening of this facility.”

Northern Nevada Sierra Medical Center, which broke ground in October 2019, is scheduled to open in 2022.

Alan Olive, CEO of Sierra Medical Center, signs the final beam before it’s lifted for construction.

The project is estimated to create between 1,200 and 1,500 construction jobs.

Once completed, SMC is projecting to staff around 900 healthcare workers at the onset and “then grow more jobs as we expand,” Alan Olive, CEO of Sierra Medical Center, told the NNBW in February.


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