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Although Utah Valley's hospital emergency rooms come in different shapes and sizes, the staffs make the difference, officials say.

"We have every kind of equipment we need," Wayne Watson, director of Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, said. "And since we get more emergencies than any other hospital in the state, our staff gets the most practice to sharpen their skills."The medical center's emergency room handled 37,500 patients in 1987. Watson said the summers are busiest, and his staff is seeing about 140 patients per day.

"There are a lot of people out there doing funny things, getting their hands caught in funny places.

"We are the largest hospital in the area, and there aren't many hospitals in Utah Valley. Salt Lake Valley residents have five or six large hospitals to choose from," he said.

The medical center's emergency area boasts 16 examination rooms and 18 beds. There is a major trauma room, an orthopedic room for putting casts on broken bones, an obstetrics room, and a short-stay room. The examination rooms form a circle around the nurses' station.

"It saves steps for our busy staff and lets them get to patients more quickly," Watson said.

The emergency area was remodeled last year for $500,000. The money was spent on architectural changes and new equipment. Watson is proud of a new light system that signals which exam room the doctor is in, which patients await attention, which are waiting for tests, and who has been waiting the longest.

"There is a light board at the nurses' station so they can glance up and find the doctor or just get an overview of the situation. There is another board in the doctors' lounge," Watson said.

Burn patients and some pediatric patients are transported to the LDS Hospital burn unit or Primary Children's Medical Center after being stabilized, he said, but most other patients who come to the Utah Valley Medical Center are treated there.

"We have most of the equipment we would ever need right here, and if there is a need for some other equipment or supply, we have the rest of the hospital to draw on."

Most of the time there is one doctor present and one on call, Watson said. There are two to five nurses, depending on the shift, and more on call, he said.

"But in a major emergency we can double our staff with people from other parts of the hospital."

Watson said the average stay in the Utah Valley Medical Center emergency room is about an hour.

"I can't believe he said that," said Eugene Zanolli, emergency room physician at Mountain View Hospital in Payson. "They are so busy, there is always a wait."

Zanolli said Utah Valley's emergency area is larger, but Mountain View has the advantage in friendly personnel and shorter waiting time.

Mountain View has four examination rooms and three curtained triage areas. The staff sees about 40 to 70 patients a day, for a yearly total of about 15,000, Zanolli said. The emergency room is well stocked, and the staff can also draw workers, supplies and equipment from the main hospital, he added.

There are one or two nurses on shift, depending on the time of day, and there is one doctor. The nurses work eight-hour shifts, but the doctor works 24 hours.

"We have a lot of slow times, and there is a place for the doctor to sleep," Zanolli said. "With our population, we don't see anything near what they see at Utah Valley."

Doctors at Utah Valley work eight- to 10-hour shifts, nurses work four- to 12-hour shifts.

Mountain View also sends burn patients and some pediatric cases to Salt Lake City. It sends neurological cases to Utah Valley.

"We don't have a neurosurgeon right now, but expect to have one within the year," Zanolli said.

While Utah Valley's average patient stay is "well over an hour," Zanolli said, Mountain View's is about 45 minutes.

"There is no comparison on the wait. We have fewer patients, so can see them faster. And this may be subjective, but I like to think we spend more time making people feel comfortable and well-attended. I think we are more personable."

Officials from Orem Community Hospital were unavailable for comment.

American Fork Hospital's main draw is its location, said Dale Eckley, nursing supervisor.

"We have a great location for the northern part of the valley," he said. "We generally see about 1,000 people a month (about 32 a day)."

Eckley said he didn't know if the more serious cases are taken to Utah Valley.

"That decision is made by the medical technicians. It is certainly possible."

American Fork Hospital has four examination rooms and three trauma areas.

It has one doctor on site and one on call, one or two nurses, depending on the shift, and may have one emergency medical technician. More staff members are available from the main hospital, when needed.

Eckley would not speculate on the average stay of an emergency room patient.

Doctors' shifts vary, he said, and nurses usually work about 12 hours.

"There is a place for doctors to sleep, but we don't generally encourage anyone to work 24 hours.

"I couldn't say we have a particular niche, unless it's our location. We don't feel a strong competition with anyone else, but we are about on par with the other hospitals.

"Our equipment is good and modern, just like that of other hospitals, and our people are great. Without good people, the equipment doesn't mean much."