Trace Regional Administrator Gary Staten said the county will lose its emergency room but will gain a clinic that will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 365-day out of the year.
“The changing nature of health care has emergency rooms closing across the country,” said Staten. “Yes, Trace is closing it’s emergency room, but the community will get a clinic that is open 12-hours a day, seven days a week. You will find that in very few communities our size.”
Trace has tried to alleviate rumors that Chickasaw County will somehow see a major reduction in the quality of care available.
“We had 6,667 visits to our emergency room last year and 280 of them came by ambulance,” said Staten. “Of the 280 that arrived by ambulance, 163 were sent home.
“Was every visit to our emergency room a true emergency?” Staten asked. “I think these numbers indicate they may not have been. I also want to point out we have to treat every emergency room visit with emergency room procedures that are much more expensive.”
Staten said Trace Regional wrote off $3 million in unpaid medical bills last year
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.
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.
Staten said this decision did not come lightly and the move has been studied by SunLink Health System for some time. He said he personally reviewed all 6,667 cases that came to the emergency room three times to get a better understanding of the numbers.
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.
Staten said the change should actually make a physician more available to the public than before.
“In the past you came to the emergency room on the weekend and we had to locate a doctor to come see you,” said Staten. “Now on a Friday evening, Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon you can come to the clinic and see a doctor.”
Staten said the health clinic will still stitch up cuts, see sick babies and the elderly with aches and pains.
He did stress the clinic will close at 9 p.m. and ambulance crews will be instructed to carry true emergencies to emergency rooms in Tupelo, West Point, Amory, Starkville or Calhoun City.
Staten said in the event of an emergency, people and industry need to call 911 and request an ambulance. He also pointed out Trace has been sending heart-attack, stroke and serious trauma and medical conditions on to Tupelo and surrounding hospitals for years.
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 programs 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.