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Only 3% of emergency room visits may truly be avoidable, study … – FierceHealthcare

Though many emergency rooms are overcrowded and some patients may not have urgent needs, just a fraction of visits are truly avoidable, according to a new study.

Researchers examined datafrom the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2005 to 2011 that included more than 115,000 records representing 424 million emergency department visits, and found that only 3.3% were avoidable.The study team defined avoidable visits as thosethat did not require diagnostic tests, screenings, procedures or medications.

A number of these avoidable visits were for concerns that the ER is not equipped to treat, like dental or mental health issues, according to the study. Of the avoidable visits, 6.8% were for alcohol- or mood-related disorders, like depression or anxiety, while 3.9% were for dental conditions.

RELATED:4 strategies to reduce ER overcrowding

The findings, published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care,challenge the commonly held belief that many people visit the ER needlessly, said RebeccaParker, M.D., president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in an announcement.

Despite a relentless campaign by the insurance industry to mislead policymakers and the public into believing that many ER visits are avoidable, the facts say otherwise, Parker said. Most patients who are in the emergency department belong there and insurers should cover those visits. The myths about unnecessary ER visits are just thatmyths.

RELATED: ER visits offer a teachable moment to reduce drug use

The ER has been a frequent target for initiatives seeking to reduce overuse and the costs associated with emergency care. However, the researchers saidthat their findings point more toward the value in programs to improve patient access to services like mental health and dental care.

The study found that 10.4% of visits from patients with alcohol-related disorders and 16.9% of visits from patients with mood disorders were avoidable, suggesting that policymakers could do more to increase access to the services that would keep those patients out of the ER.

Our findings serve as a start to addressing gaps in the U.S. healthcare system, rather than penalizing patients for lack of access, and may be a better step to decreasing avoidable ED visits, the authors wrote.

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How Four Master’s Students Used Design to Help One Haiti Emergency Room – The Bentley University Newsroom

Imagine walking into a crowded emergency room and having your symptoms recorded electronically, in order to minimize wait time and maximize care. That efficient scenario a dream of hospitals everywhere is newly underway at a hospital in Haiti.

In 2015, Boston, Mass.-based Partners in Health (PIH), which runs University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, set out to develop an electronic triage system to replace its paper-based process.Their strategy was to expand on OpenMRS, the open-source medical record system implemented there. But this being relatively new territory for the PIH team, they sought additional experts to get the job done.

Tapping into a Learning Community

Enter Bill Gribbons, a leading authority on user experience who directs the Masters in Human Factors in Information Design (HFID) at Bentley University. PIH contacted Gribbons, who then reached out to his extensive network he calls it a learning community and received a flood of interest. He recruited another faculty expert, Roland Hubscher, to help advise a team, and four part-time graduate students eager for hands-on experience and excited to make a difference. All were willing to work on the project remotely, for no pay and no course credit.

I firmly believe some of the most meaningful learning happens outside the confines of a traditional classroom, said Gribbons. This type of project, one that requires in-depth involvement and makes an immediate impact on a product, is invaluable for students particularly for graduate students, who are looking to grow their careers and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

The HFID students were located in different cities and time zones and came from different professional backgrounds. Kim Forthofer, the team lead, was in Southwest Harbor, Maine, Mary Gribbons in Cambridge, Mass.; Truc Tokarz in San Jose, Calif.; and Dan Lopes in Toronto, Ontario. Though they were not able to work on site in Haiti, they used Google Hangouts to meet as a group on Wednesday evenings to stay on track.

We looked to Bentley because we knew that their graduate students would be accountable for their work and thoughtfully execute this project, said David DeSimone, business analyst at PIH. The students did not disappoint. They asked all the right questions and delivered a product that was immediately well received.

Designing a Product that Makes a Difference

Designing an electronic emergency intake form, from a remote location, is no easy task. The requirements were that the form permit easy scanning by a nurse and visually signal the urgency of a patients medical needs. To begin, University Hospital sent its typical paper intake forms to the Bentley team for analysis. This system, which ranked patients with a numerical score and a color based on severity, left plenty of room for mathematical error.

In addition to the technical parameters, cultural considerations were also essential. One of the biggest challenges for the team was coming up with a user-friendly design for a population that has limited access to computers, said DeSimone. Their initial designs used a keyboard only, with no mouse. But by the time we implemented the technology, we were able to train the nurses on Google Chromebooks.

A significant part of the design process involved user surveys and user testing. Due to the distance and lack of readily available technology, the Bentley team designed static mockups and used a cognitive walkthrough exercise where they asked nurses to role-play a patient-intake scenario.

This helped us better understand the human thought process behind the products use, said Forthofer. We knew it was possible that lives could depend on nurses understanding the new app as quickly as possible.

Life-Changing Experience

Despite the lack of credit or pay, the experience of acting as consultants had enormous value for the team. They improved the hospital experience for patients in Haiti, while also building their own skills and putting them into practice.

The project was much more like a real consulting gig instead of a realistic project done over a semester and graded by a professor. This provided us with real-world pressure as well as real-world confidence and experience, said Forthofer, who also gained reinforcement that she is in the right career, for the right reasons. I began my professional life as an environmental engineer and user experience is a second career for me, so challenges related to technical and scientific areas are the ones I continue to be drawn to.

This venture is a first for Partners in Health, in terms of developing a product that triages patients electronically in real time. They hope the intake form will be replicated at other facilities in Haiti and elsewhere. Anecdotally, they know that emergency room waiting times are lower and, more important, that prioritization has improved so the most critical patients are seen first. PIH has plans to gather data on the products effectiveness, but in the meantime, patients are getting better care and nurses and doctors are better able to do their jobs – a winning prescription all around.

Dedicatedto Preparing a New Kind of Business Leader

Bentley Universityis one of the nations leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader with the technical skills, global perspective and ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Bentleys diverse arts and sciences program combined with an advanced business curriculum prepares graduates to make an impact in their chosen fields. The university enrolls approximately 4,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students. ThePrinceton Reviewranked Bentley #1 in the United States in both career services and internships andBloomberg BusinessWeekranked Bentley a top 10 undergraduate business school.

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Only 3.3% of emergency room visits are ‘avoidable,’ study says – Healthcare Finance News

Only 3.3 percent of emergency room visits are avoidable, according to a study published Thursday in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care.https://academic.oup.com/intqhc/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/intqhc/mzx081

This is because those visits deemed ‘avoidable’ involve mental health or dental care, issues with which the ER is generally not equipped to deal, according to the study published in the peer-reviewed journal.

[Also: Medicaid expansion results in more emergency room trips; fewer patients uninsured]

The study shows that despite the health insurance industry’s campaign about avoidable ER visits, most patients in the emergency room belong there, said American College of Emergency Physicians President Becky Parker, MD.

The ‘avoidable’ emergency department visits are defined as visits in which patients did not require any diagnostic or screening services, procedures, or medications, and were discharged home.

“Most patients who are in the emergency department belong there and insurers should cover those visits,” Parker said. “The myths about ‘unnecessary’ ER visits are just that myths.”

The study analyzed data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2005 to 2011.

The most common ‘avoidable’ ER visits in the study included cases in which patients were discharged with alcohol- and mood-related disorders, or with dental conditions.

The study showed that 10.4 percent of visits by patients diagnosed with alcohol-related disorders, 16.9 percent for mood-related disorders and 4.9 percent for dental-related conditions, were ‘avoidable.’

While these visits were deemed avoidable, the majority of patients with these conditions still required some form of diagnostic or treatment service, said the study’s authors.

“We found that many of the common conditions of ‘avoidable’ emergency department visits involved mental health and dental problems, which ERs are generally ill-equipped to treat,” said lead study author Renee Hsia, MD, of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “This suggests a lack of access to healthcare rather than intentional inappropriate use is driving many of these ‘avoidable’ visits. These patients come to the ER because they need help and literally have no place else to go.”

Twitter: @SusanJMorseEmail the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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Serious Nursing Home Abuse Often Not Reported To Police, Federal Investigators Find – NPR

More than one-quarter of the 134 cases of severe abuse that were uncovered by government investigators were not reported to the police. The vast majority of the cases involved sexual assault. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

More than one-quarter of the 134 cases of severe abuse that were uncovered by government investigators were not reported to the police. The vast majority of the cases involved sexual assault.

More than one-quarter of serious cases of nursing home abuse are not reported to the police, according to an alert released Monday morning by the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services.

The cases went unreported despite the fact that state and federal law require that serious cases of abuse in nursing homes be turned over to the police.

Government investigators are conducting an ongoing review into nursing home abuse and neglect but say they are releasing the alert now because they want immediate fixes.

These are cases of abuse severe enough to send someone to the emergency room. One example cited in the alert is a woman who was left deeply bruised after being sexually assaulted at her nursing home. Federal law says that incident should have been reported to the police within two hours. But the nursing home didn’t do that, says Curtis Roy, an assistant regional inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services.

“They cleaned off the victim,” he says. “In doing so, they destroyed all of the evidence that law enforcement could have used as part of an investigation into this crime.”

The nursing home told the victim’s family about the assault the next day. It was the family that informed the police. But Roy says that even then, the nursing home tried to cover up the crime.

“They went so far as to contact the local police department to tell them that they did not need to come out to facility to conduct an investigation,” says Roy.

Looking at records from 2015 and 2016, Curtis Roy and his team of investigators found 134 cases of abuse of nursing home residents severe enough to require emergency treatment. The vast majority of the cases involved sexual assault.

There’s never an excuse to allow somebody to suffer this kind of torment.

Curtis Roy

“There’s never an excuse to allow somebody to suffer this kind of torment, really, ever,” says Roy.

The incidents of abuse were spread across 33 states. Illinois had the most at 17. Seventy-two percent of all the cases appear to have been reported to local law enforcement within two hours. But twenty-eight percent were not. Investigators from the Office of the Inspector General decided to report all 134 cases to the police. “We’re so concerned,” says Roy, “we’d rather over-report something than not have it reported at all.”

The alert from the Inspector General’s office says that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which regulate nursing homes, need to do more to track these cases of abuse. The alert suggests that the agency should do what Curtis Roy’s investigators did: cross-reference Medicare claims from nursing home residents with their claims from the emergency room. Investigators were able to see if an individual on Medicare filed claims for both nursing home care and emergency room services. Investigators could then see if the emergency room diagnosis indicated the patient was a victim of a crime, such as physical or sexual assault.

The alert notes that federal law on this issue was strengthened in 2011. It requires someone who suspects abuse of a nursing home resident causing serious bodily injury, to report their suspicion to local law enforcement in two hours or less. If their suspicion of abuse does not involve serious bodily injury of the nursing home resident, they have 24 hours to report it. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $300,000.

But CMS never got explicit authority from the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enforce the penalties. According to the Inspector General’s alert, CMS only began seeking that authority this year. CMS did not make anyone available for an interview.

Clearly, the 134 cases of severe abuse uncovered by the Inspector General’s office represent a tiny fraction of the nation’s 1.4 million nursing home residents. But Curtis Roy says the cases they found are likely just a small fraction of the ones that exist, since they were only able to identify victims of abuse who were taken to an emergency room. “It’s the worst of the worst,” he says. “I don’t believe that anyone thinks this is acceptable.

“We’ve got to do a better job,” says Roy, of “getting [abuse] out of our health care system.”

One thing investigators don’t yet know is whether the nursing homes where abuses took place were ever fined or punished in any way. That will be part of the Inspector General’s full report which is expected in about a year.

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Serious Nursing Home Abuse Often Not Reported To Police, Federal Investigators Find – NPR

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Emergency Rooms Prepare for Surge During the Eclipse – WLTX.com

Liv Osby , wltx 8:58 PM. EDT August 20, 2017

(Photo: Getty Images)

Emergency room doctors around the country are gearing up for a surge in patients Monday in states like South Carolina that are in the path of the solar eclipse.

I suspect there will be an increase in patient traffic to ERs, especially in areas expecting a large influx of eclipse-watchers, such as Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Missouri, said Dr. Becky Parker, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Total Solar Eclipse – Everything You Need to Know

When a population surges, even temporarily, ER visits tend to rise, she said. Anything out of the ordinary that shakes up a regular routine, like this eclipse, or daylight savings, can lead to more vehicle accidents.

In addition to accidents, there could be an increase in heat exposure as well as eye injuries from looking at the sun, according ACEP.

Greenville Health System is checking its ER staffing levels and its command center will be manned to monitor the patient census and any issues that could arise, spokesman Dudley Brown said.

The Upstates extra visitors could impact phone lines and Internet service, he said. We will monitor those communication tools and schedule briefings throughout the day to make sure GHS providers and departments are aware of any issues taking place that could impact communication or the larger population visiting the Upstate.

Bon Secours St. Francis Health System is also making preparations.

We are participating in the health system preparations for the eclipse, said Greta Gue, administrative director of emergency services. With the influx of people coming into Greenville, we do expect to have a higher volume and some incidents.

Rural ER physicians, especially those in the direct path of the eclipse, expect to see an increase in people seeking care, putting pressure on providers, ACEP reports.

Like many experts have said, emergency physicians remind the public that its extremely important to protect your eyes during this eclipse, Parker said.

If you choose to look at it, you must use proper eye protection for safe viewing from a reputable manufacturer,” she added. “Staring at the sun even for a second can cause severe, permanent loss of vision. Remember, regular sunglasses do not offer enough protection.

The Greenville News

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TennCare non-emergency ER visits cost $84 million – WATE 6 On Your Side

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) TennCare recipients cost taxpayers nearly $85 million by going to the emergency room for common colds, headaches, toothaches and other non-emergencies, according to the most recent available state data.

The data show federally and state-funded non-emergent ER visits resulted in a 25% increase in cost in the 2016 fiscal year compared to the prior year.

State records identified at least 126,000 visits in one year alone, including 24,257 visits for acute upper respiratory infections, 14,178 visits for headaches, 11,420 visits for strep throat, 10,115 visits for nausea with vomiting, 9,918 visits for lower back pain, 9,098 visits for viral infections, 8,323 visits for fevers and 8,161 visits for toothaches.

(Division of TennCare)

This is a long-term problem, TennCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Victor Wu said.

Dr. Wu said the states Medicaid program is trying to come up with a solution by working to convince its 1.5 million patients, which include low-income pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities, to get regular checkups with a primary care physician and not just go to the doctor when they are sick.

Everyone needs to have a relationship with their primary care provider, Dr. Wu said. I think if we can begin to turn the tide more toward prevention and turn the tide more toward focusing on wellness I think that will help, in general, offload some of the challenges we see when people do get sick and where they need to go.

In addition to that effort, Dr. Wu said TennCare is increasing patient interventions, including face-to-face meetings, phone calls, text messages and letters and working with hospitals to help direct patients through the proper path of care.

I think were still trying to work through all different avenues and all different channels, he said. It is really challenging.

TennCare also reports it implemented a new policy several years ago that caps the amount of money it reimburses hospitals at $50 per non-emergent ER visit, which incentivizes hospitals to better educate the public. However, the states own numbers show more education is needed, particularly in East Tennessee, which is responsible for more than $30 million of the total $84 million expense.

Its an opportunity, Dr. Shari Rajoo said. It also is a signal that there is definitely a misunderstanding of the purpose of the emergency room. I think we really have to reorient ourselves to the emergency room is for life or limb threatening situations and Is this one of those situations? Can I wait until the morning?

Mountain States Health Alliances AnewCare Collaborative has spent the last several years trying to drive the message home that primary care is not only more affordable, but ultimately better for a person and societys overall health. At the ER, doctors arent specialists in treating chronic health problems. Instead, theyre focused strictly on emergency care and often times, only have a snapshot of a patients medical history. AnewCare Collaborative President Paige Younkin said MSHA is also trying to give patients support so they can call their care coordinator for advice about how best to treat their health issue and avoid the ER altogether.

The patients better off because their care if coordinated, Younkin said. There is, for lack of a better word, theres a captain of their ship.

The AnewCare Collaborative, led by both women, is targeting certain patient demographics, using disease-specific initiatives to spread the message and trying to make primary care and urgent care more convenient.

Were working on establishing easier scheduling, open scheduling, maybe looking at different hours, so that theyre more flexible, so the patient is able to go there instead of the emergency department, Younkin said.

Even with all of these efforts, the chairman of the Tennessee Senate committee in charge of TennCare oversight said there is only so much the state can do.

It really is troubling, Sen. Rusty Crowe (R), District 3, said.

Like his counterpart in Congress Rep. Phil Roe (R), District 1, Sen. Crowe said states need flexibility too that will only come from federal healthcare reform.

The federal laws restrict our hospitals with regard to what we can do with Medicaid patients, Sen. Crowe said. Untie our hands and let us do what we need to do at the state level.

I strongly agree that states need more flexibility in how they structure their Medicaid programs so first-class people arent receiving second-class care, Congressman Roe said in a statement. This is why we prioritized Medicaid reform as part of the American Health Care Act that will help move towards a health care system that lowers the cost of care and empowers patients so they arent relying on emergency rooms for primary care.

Experts say non-emergent visits arent just costing taxpayers money and costing TennCare patients better care, theyre also tying up the ERs critical service, which delays care for people who really need emergency help.

It just increases the wait time, Dr. Wu said. We want to help shift them to more prevention and wellness as opposed to just acute sickness.

MSHA said patients should contact their primary care office for most medical problems, including urinary symptoms, cough/congestion, flu, earaches, sore throats, migraines, fever, constipation, rashes, minor cuts and burns, regular physicals, prescription refills, vaccinations, screenings and advice.

Meanwhile, the health system said patients should use urgent care when it is not an emergency, but waiting to see your primary care provider is not an option. Urgent care facilities can order any necessary bloodwork and can assist with urinary symptoms, cough/congestion, flu, earaches, sore throats, migraines, fever, constipation, rashes, sprains, back pain, minor cuts and burns, minor broken bones or minor eye injuries, MSHA said.

MSHA said patients should go to the ER for chest pain, severe abdominal pain, coughing up or vomiting blood, severe burns, deep cuts or bleeding that wont stop, sudden blurred vision, sudden difficulty breathing or shortness of breath that is not relieved by inhalers, sudden dizziness, weakness, or loss of coordination or balance, sudden, new numbness in the face, arm, or leg, sudden slurred speech, sudden severe headache (not a migraine), seizures and any other condition you believe is life-threatening.

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TennCare non-emergency ER visits cost $84 million – WATE 6 On Your Side

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Neighbors ER: Market saturation forced closure of College Station location – KBTX

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) – One of the many free-standing emergency rooms that have popped up around town is no longer open for business.

Neighbors Emergency Center on University Drive across from the campus had only been open since October of 2016. At least 30 employees lost their positions with the closure last weekend.

The Houston-based company says the local market is simply too saturated with freestanding ERs.

In a statement to KBTX, a spokesperson for the company says, the entire industry is compressing due to oversaturation in some markets. College station is fortunate to have multiple points of access to care in the community. Many towns across Texas, especially in rural areas, are not as lucky.

Dr. Andy Wilson of Caprock ER, the first free-standing ER in College Station, says while over saturation locally is a concern, there’s also an ongoing battle between all types of licensed emergency rooms and insurance companies. He says that’s also making it difficult to stay in business.

Insurance companies have spent millions of dollars to try and convince there enrollees that emergency care is ever out of network, said Wilson.

The Texas Department of Insurance says under the law you can go to any emergency room, but payment responsibilities may vary depending on the type of insurance plan you carry.

A spokesperson sent KBTX the following statement:

Consumers in a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan or exclusive provider organization (EPO) plan who get emergency care from an out-of-network provider in an emergency situation arent responsible for amounts above their normal copay’s and coinsurance for in-network care. Consumers with coverage through preferred provider organizations (PPO) who get out-of-network care may be balance billed even for emergency services meaning the consumer may be responsible for the amount not paid by the plan.

Wilson says balance billing is usually not the practice of most free-standing emergency rooms.

It will always be in network, said Wilson. If its not appeal it and we will appeal it with you and we will win.

The Texas Department of Insurance says its a good idea to know the closest emergency room in your health plan’s provider network.

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Medical Monday-When to go to the Emergency Room vs. Your Primary Care Physician – WAGM

When youre sick, its hard enough to function, much less try and decide where to go to see a doctor. Pines Health Services is sending out pamphlets to help with Cary Medical Centers overcrowded emergency room.

“The ER is extremely busy. Every single bed I think even the hallways are full. Patients are in the waiting room that might be able to be seen here so we really can take away the wait time in the ER making it more convenient for the patient,” said RN Practice Manager Libby Gardner.

To help with overcrowding, Pines health services is educating the community on when to see a primary care physician or head to the Emergency room.

“So we sent out five thousand mailers today to community members just stating the differences for where they should seek treatment,” said Gardner.

The pamphlet includes when to see your primary care physician including sprains, sports injuries, and even getting a pregnancy test.

“The reason that were doing this is because weve seen an influx of patients going to the ER seeking treatment there rather than coming here to see a primary care provider. Seeing increase wait times, costs, those kinds of things when were readily available to help here,” said Gardner.

But if youre experiencing a symptom with more severity Gardner says you should be going to the emergency room.

“If someone is experiencing some chest pain, numbness on one side of the body, those are signs of a much more severe condition and they should seek expert advice in the emergency department,” said Gardner.

Gardner also says you could be saving money if you see your primary doctor rather than heading to the ER.

“If you come to your primary care physician depending on the insurance that you have or copay. If you go to the emergency department you might have a copay thats 5 times as high than coming to the office,” said Gardner.

In order to encourage patients to come in to see their primary care physicians Gardner says the staff at pines health does their best to see their patients as soon as possible.

“We strive to be able to get our own patients in the very same day that they are calling with their needs. Although they may not see their own primary care provider we have a team of providers ready to help who have access to a patient’s medical records making it a safe, smoother transition for the patient,” said Gardner.

And when in doubt, call your physician to determine where you should go.

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Pediatric ER open to public – Valley morning Star

HARLINGEN Super heroes, magicians, and colorful decorations set the scene last week for the unveiling of Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingens newest offering in its commitment to providing comprehensive pediatric healthcare to the community.

During the Valley Baptist-Harlingen Pediatric Emergency Ribbon Cutting event on Friday, August 4, hospital leadership with the help of government officials and the local area chamber of commerce shared the opening of the new dedicated, 12-bed pediatric unit with the community.

While adults toured the unit, children were treated to a bevy of activities, including magic shows, live science experiments, photos with their favorite super heroes, and tasty treats and snacks.

At Valley Baptist, we have had the privilege to serve the children of the Rio Grande Valley since 1925, and over the years we have added services to help meet the needs of our littlest patients, said Valley Baptist Health System CEO Manny Vela. To that mix, we now add the only dedicated, hospital-based Pediatric Emergency Room. We designed this 12-bed unit for families, and look forward to serving yours should they need emergency care.

Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell said new services provided by Valley Baptist-Harlingen will continue to benefit the community and improve the quality of life for local residents.

The continual improvement of Valley Baptist healthcare through the development of this new pediatric emergency room is an indicator of the great quality of life that we have in our community, Boswell said.

Harlingen resident and parent Jim Young said the new Pediatric Emergency Room should help put parents and young patients at ease during trips to the hospital.

Its important for parents to have a place that theyre confident in when their little one is sick or when an accident happens, because that can be a traumatic experience, he said.

Vela said the new Pediatric Emergency Room will help Valley Baptist-Harlingen achieve its goal of making sure local residents do not have to leave their community to receive quality healthcare.

One of our goals at Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville is to be differentiators in regard to the service lines that we offer. Even so, it goes deeper than that. Our goal is to offer services so that members of our community do not have to go north to receive any treatment whatsoever, he said. Were chipping away at that in a very deliberate and progressive way, and this is just one more example of how we continue in Cameron County to offer an outstanding level of care to our pediatric community. The Pediatric Emergency Room is a continuation of our commitment to our youngest residents.

Dr. Betzaida Gonzalez, Valley Baptist Emergency Room Medical Director, said upgrades like the Pediatric Emergency Room show a continued focus on expanding services at Valley Baptist-Harlingen.

This Pediatric Emergency Room is specific to the needs and concerns of children and their caretakers. Children will receive specialized attention during emergent situations that will allow parents to find comfort in the quality of the care their children are receiving, she said. Being able to provide these specialized services to the residents of our community shows commitment to the peace of mind and advancement of emergency care for our children.

According to U.S. Census Bureau reports from 2016, more than 31 percent of the population in Cameron County was younger than 18 years old. Caring for such a large portion of the community is what makes the Pediatric Emergency Room project so critical to providing quality healthcare, said Alan Johnson, Valley Baptist Board of Trustees Chairman.

This is something that has been needed for a long, long time, he said. We all know that we have a very young population here in the Valley, and thats all the more reason to open this unit. This is something that we need to take care of the young people in our community.

Now open, the Pediatric Emergency Room adds to the comprehensive pediatric care offered at Valley Baptist-Harlingen. In addition to offering the only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Harlingen, Valley Baptist-Harlingen also offers high-quality healthcare at the Matt & Patty Gorges Childrens Center.

The center, which is filled with colorful artwork and bright dcor to help raise childrens spirits during their stay, also includes a 14-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

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Pediatric ER open to public – Valley morning Star

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Millions of Americans live nowhere near a hospital, jeopardizing their lives – CNN

She is one of many medical providers working in towns 30 miles or more from a hospital, a distance that can make the difference between life or death.

The recent debates over the Affordable Health Care Act raised concerns that millions of Americans could lose access to health care. But already, there are many Americans who live in areas where critical-care services are lacking.

Dr. Jeremy Brown, director of the National Institute of Health’s Office of Emergency Care Research, said treatments for heart attacks and strokes are most effective when done quickly.

“Every minute that you can get the patient into treatment sooner will represent some brain cells that are saved,” he said.

Areas without hospitals are called “hospital deserts.” The deserts are biggest in Western states. In Nevada, for instance, there are only 13 hospitals providing critical-care services to rural areas.

The 2,400 residents of Tonopah, Nevada, who live halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, must travel more than 100 miles to get to a hospital. It was one of the most extreme examples that CNN found outside of Alaska.

Jessica Thompson, a registered nurse there, has family roots in the community dating back more than a century.

“I’ve been told multiple times that’s what I get for (choosing) to live in rural Nevada and that really upsets me, because that isn’t the choice I made. I was born in a hospital and I had a hospital my entire life up until two years ago,” she said.

Thompson worked at the hospital before it closed. She said the loss of the hospital was devastating, evoking lots of emotion.

“People angry, people sad, people scared,” she said. “You know the fear of, ‘Will I make it to another facility if something bad happens?’ “

Irene Carlyle said she and her husband moved from Los Angeles in 2005, hoping to stay in Tonopah. But now she doesn’t know if that will happen.

“We’re both on Medicare,” she said. “I said (to my husband), ‘You know, at some point, we’re going to have to move.’ It’s going to come. I mean at some point you get sick.”

Last year, the nonprofit Renown Medical Group began leasing space to provide primary care services, but for now, there are no immediate urgent care options.

Other parts of the country are dealing with similar problems, including pockets of Florida, Texas and New York.

A report last year by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that the problem will worsen as more rural hospitals are likely to shut down. This is in part because rural towns are losing population and becoming poorer.

Republican hopes to repeal and replace Obamacare could make the problem much worse, experts say, if millions of American lose their health insurance. That would put even more pressure on rural hospitals.

Some in Congress have proposed efforts to try to save rural hospitals. A bipartisan group of senators led by Iowa Republican Charles Grassley introduced a bill that would change Medicare rules to allow rural hospitals to have an emergency room and outpatient care, without the need for hospital beds.

“A car accident or a heart attack is dangerous under the best of circumstances, but it’s a lot more dangerous for someone who’s far away from an emergency room,” Grassley said. “When a rural hospital closes, its emergency room closes with it.”

Thompson, the nurse in Tonopah, believes something needs to be done.

“There’s a lot of people out in the rural community who feel like they’ve been forgotten,” she said.

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Millions of Americans live nowhere near a hospital, jeopardizing their lives – CNN

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