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Controversial Mount Sinai ER Opens

MIAMI — In a move that is being fiercely debated by politicians and the hospital industry, Mount Sinai on Monday opened a stand-alone emergency room less than a mile from Aventura Hospital.

Mondays are generally the busiest times for ERs, as many people postpone getting care on weekends. But Monday morning, early temperatures below 60 apparently kept people home.

With workmen still installing the emergency signs, the Sinai ER at 2845 Aventura Blvd. opened at 7 a.m. At 8:30, it had yet to see a patient.

The Aventura waiting room, nine-tenths of a mile away, was also empty. When a journalist asked an Aventura guard if it was a slow morning, he replied, “So far.”

Mount Sinai, which has been losing money for years at its Miami Beach facility, is gambling $5 million that it can attract Aventura residents to a round-the-clock ER and, if needed, rush them by ambulance to their half-empty facility on Miami Beach for surgery or other extensive care.

Critics of stand-alone emergency rooms have raised concerns about quality of treatment, stealing patients from already existing hospitals and what happens when patients need to be admitted to the hospital, particularly if they have to be rushed into surgery.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill banning new stand-alones, excluding Sinai because its planning was already under way. Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the bill.

By 10 a.m. Monday, the new Sinai ER had attracted three patients — one by ambulance and two walk-ins. David M. Lang, Sinai’s chief of emergency medicine, says he’s expecting 7,000 patients to the new facility during its first calendar year.

Aventura Hospitalreports its ER handled 35,000 patients in 2007.