REXBURG, Idaho -

Starting last month, Madison Memorial Hospital began handing over operations of its emergency room to the University of Utah's health care division.

It's part of a plan to get Madison Memorial's emergency room ready to take on the higher volume of patients expected as a result of the growing population in Rexburg.

"There are definitely changes we want to make,” said Dr. Rodney Jay, a University of Utah doctor who recently took over emergency room operations at Madison Memorial. "One of the biggest challenges here is that this has been a small town with a small, sleepy ER."

Under this new arrangement, Jay will continue to oversee operations at Madison Memorial's emergency room while remaining a University of Utah employee. Within the next year, all emergency room employees could become employees of the university.

"We're setting up a base of four board-certified ER doctors and then we have some physicians in the community to help us out also,” said Jay.

While managing such a large staff could have posed problems for Madison Memorial, hospital officials say Jay is more than equipped to take on this challenge.

"Just managing doctors. University of Utah, of course, has lots of doctors that they manage,” said Dr. Edwin Wells, who works in Madison Memorial's emergency room.

Having the University of Utah in-house will also mean less patient transfers to other area hospitals such as EIRMC.

"We'll be able to keep more and more of that here and take care of people without having to send them down the street,” said Jay.

Madison Memorial and the University of Utah first formed a partnership in December to share some resources and expertise, but it wasn't until this spring that they decided the university would take over the hospital's emergency room.