Trace Regional eyes changes

SunLink.LogoHOUSTON – The days of the uninsured going to an emergency room anywhere in the United States and then walking out and letting someone else pick up the tab are drawing to a close.

And Trace Regional Hospital is changing with the times as it looks at the possibility of closing its emergency room and opening a rural health services clinic that would be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to require all persons to obtain some kind of health insurance but the healthcare industry is still bombarded by patients walking into an emergency room seeking care for less than life-threatening illnesses. Emergency room care typically costs several times more than clinical care and when those who don’t have insurance walk out without paying, the hospital and physicians must absorb the cost.

A letter to Trace Regional Hospital employees last week announced some of the changes.

“I can’t talk about a lot of the details at this time because this process is ongoing and there are some major issues still to be worked out,” said Gary Staten, Houston Hospital Administrator. “This is a very complex issue that we are working through.”

Staten did say this move has been studied by SunLink Health Systems since earlier this year. He said the legal, business and community ramifications are big and he urged people to watch what Trace Regional is actually doing and what changes are being made.

Staten said rumors the hospital is closing are not true and he feels the changes in emergency care services will ultimately benefit Trace Regional and patients.

“This hospital has never operated in the red during the 13 years I have been here and we are not doing that now,” said Staten. “Yes, the healthcare industry is changing rapidly and SunLink and all smaller healthcare facilities around this country are looking to evolve and adjust to those changes.”

Regional statistics indicate one in four emergency room visitors either don’t have insurance or don’t pay for services.

“Our medical staff, community board and corporate board have been by our side as we analyzed, developed and implemented this process,” the letter given to employees said. “There is still much to do in educating you as well as our local government, police, ambulance, fire and rescue, businesses and community.”

The letter went on to say more decision making will be placed on the patient to wisely choose which type of healthcare service they seek.

“Patient accountability is the direction our nation has chosen to take and we want to be the best partners we can be in assisting them in their decisions,” the letter said.

Trace Regional Hospital is one of five hospitals operated by SunLink Health Systems, Inc., across the Southeast and Midwest in addition to a specialty pharmacy company in Louisiana.

Each SunLink facility is the only hospital in its community. SunLink’s corporate headquarters are in Atlanta.

SunLink’s operating strategy is to link patients’ needs with dedicated physicians and health professionals to deliver quality, efficient medical care in each community it serves.

Trace Regional Hospital is fully accredited by The Joint Commission. Accreditation makes a strong statement to the community regarding an organization’s efforts in providing quality services, performance improvement program and safety which can reduce risk, error or low quality of care.

Trace Regional is a major employer in Houston and also operates Floy Dyer Manor a 66 bed nursing home.

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