The emergency room may be the first and only contact a patient has with a local hospital.
That's why Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo wants to ensure all the people it's serving in northeast Iowa have access to a modernized facility.
As a longtime Waterloo doctor, Jerry Sarsfield understands patient needs.
That's why he's co-chairing the campaign to build a new emergency room at Covenant Medical Center.
"No one thinks about it until they have to use it or a friend has to use it or a family member has to use it. What we're trying to do is to increase access and ease of use," said Dr. Sarsfield.
Sarsfield says the 28,000-square-foot facility will give patients and their families more room to access the ER and stay with their loved ones.
And cases involving mental health or sexual assault will be handled in a more private setting.
"Behavioral health is really not handled anywhere else and some times these patients can be a danger to themselves or others and we will have rooms that are capable of handling them without putting themselves, equipment or health care workers at risk," he said.
Longtime community volunteer Unytha Duncan is cochairing the campaign for the 17-million-dollar project.
All but a little more than one million has been raised through donations toward an emergency room that served patients from 77 of Iowa's 99 counties last year.
"I'm an former ER nurse in another community and I know how important it is for everyone to have the very best facility that they can and that the nurses and all the medical personnel have really good equipment at their fingertips. With an emergency you only get one chance and you need to have everything really in place," she said.
Covenant's new ER is set to open in the fall of next year.