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Emergency Department

Starrett Center For Emergency Care

In An Emergency, Dial 911 Immediately

Emergency Department

If you have any of the following symptoms, dial 911, and seek medical attention immediately:

  • Chest Pain
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Severe Burns
  • Sudden Slurred Speech
  • Uncontrolled Bleeding

New Emergency Department Safety Screening Notice Heywood and Athol Hospitals

  • New Safety Protocols

    • All bags/belongings entering the Emergency Department will be searched. It is suggested that patients only bring necessary items (e.g. Keys, ID, Phones)
    • All Patients entering the Emergency Departments will be Screened via a security wand
    • Patients entering the ED Treatment area will be provided a gown
    • Visitation Update - One visitor per patient (children may have both parents). Visitors will be subject to wanding and are asked not to bring any belongings into the ED with them. If they choose to bring in bags they will be subject to a search.

Our Philosophy and Goal

In the course of a year, more than 26,000 people arrive at our Emergency Room to seek care and treatment. Some of these patients arrive in an ambulance, some arrive by car and some even come here by bus, taxi or walking. Our goal is to treat each and every patient as quickly and effectively as possible. We provide the highest level of medical care with a great deal of compassion and sensitivity.


Upon arrival, you will be asked to give your name to our Volunteer or Registration Clerk at the front desk. This will begin the process for you to be seen in the Emergency Department (ED). After signing in, you will be called by a Nurse who will begin an assessment including your vital signs. The information collected will be put in the computer as part of your permanent medical record. Once in a treatment room, another Nurse, followed by the ED provider will ask you more detailed questions.

Triage is a French word that means "to sort". The role of the Triage Nurse is to make sure that the patients with the most serious injuries or illnesses are seen first. We do not see patients according to the time they arrive in the Main ED. Patients are triaged according to the seriousness of their injury or illness. As soon as an appropriate room is available, you will be taken to a treatment room. If a room is not available, you may be asked to wait in the waiting room. If you are asked to wait, please notify the Triage Nurse or Volunteer of any change in your condition.

Who Provides Emergency Room Care

The ED team consists of Nurses, Paramedics, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and Physicians who are all specifically trained in emergency medicine. Many of the Nurses also have other specialty certifications.

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse with advanced training. NPs are required to have a Master’s Degree and must pass a certification exam. They work in collaboration with the ED physician. A Physician Assistant (PA) is a graduate of an accredited educational program. PAs are nationally certified and state licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of the ED physician. All PAs that work in the Watkin’s Center have attained their Master’s Degrees. Both NPs and PAs have advanced training in diagnosing, treating and managing injuries and illnesses. They are able to prescribe medications and perform certain procedures. The NPs and PAs at The Watkins Center Emergency Department share similar roles and work as part of a team with the ED physician. 

In some cases, they will provide all the care you receive, in consultation with the ED physician as necessary.

The ED Physicians who work at Heywood Hospital are all Board Certified and have special training, skills or experience in providing emergency care. The emergency room doctor on duty oversees the care of all patients who comes into the Emergency Department. In some cases, the Physician may treat you. In other cases, the Physician will oversee the care provided to you by our mid-level providers (NPs and PAs). 

Please do not hesitate to ask your doctor questions, and to make it clear when you do not understand something. We also suggest that you ask the nurse who gives you instructions upon discharge to explain anything you did not understand.

The on-duty ED Physician is available for consult to any patient. Please just ask your Nurse, Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant to speak with the Physician on duty.


In some cases, a patient's condition may require us to transfer them to another facility such as UMass Medical Center in Worcester for a higher level of care. Sometimes this transfer takes place in a helicopter, and sometimes it is made by ambulance. In every case, our doctors will do everything they can to stabilize the patient before transporting him or her. 

The Emergency Department is staffed 24 hours-a-day with qualified physicians and nurses, and is supported by dedicated laboratory, radiology and respiratory technicians and therapists. Currently, more than 10,000 patients a year are treated in the Emergency Department.

About the Emergency Department

In 2006, Athol Hospital achieved Primary Stroke Service designation. Patients with symptoms of stroke can now be diagnosed and treated more quickly than ever before. Athol Hospital has also added other technologies, such as a Picture Archiving and Communications System, to provide advanced diagnostic and treatment services.

In the event of a serious trauma, Life Flight, Med Flight, and Life Star capability means Athol Hospital can transport patients to Level One Trauma Centers safely and quickly when time is of the essence. Athol Hospital also has its own helipad, generously donated by the Athol-Orange Rotary Club. Ambulance and helicopter transport services are also available when a patient’s condition warrants transfer to a tertiary care facility or other specialty health care institution.

Visiting Guidelines

Adult Patients: 1 healthy visitor, support person or caregiver at a time.
Pediatric Patients: 2 healthy parents or guardians may accompany a pediatric patient
• These visitors can rotate.
• Visitors 17 and under by exception only.

There may be times when waiting area in the ED becomes too crowded to remain safe. When this occurs, anyone escorting patients may be asked to wait in their car until the patient gets to their room or the ED is less crowded.
The determination of visitor eligibility and the number of allowed visitors will be made by the emergency provider, charge nurse, and primary nurse.

End of Life Care or Comfort Care
Decisions about visitation, number of visitors allowed and duration of visits will be made collaboratively with the patient, the clinical care team, unit leadership, and a patient’s loved ones, as appropriate, on a case-by-case basis.