- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - A hospital on Mississippi’s gulf coast is changing its emergency room treatment policy in an effort to ease crowding.

The Sun Herald reports Memorial Hospital at Gulfport beginning next month will try to address the crowding issue by trying to convince “non-urgent” patients to go to a walk-in clinic. Such patients who insist on using the ER will be asked to pay a $200 deposit or their insurance co-pay before they are treated.

A press release from the hospital said qualified ER providers will determine who is a non-urgent patient.

Officials at the hospital said the change in policy is not a cost-saving measure nor does it alter Memorial’s commitment to serve people who are unable to pay for health care.

“Memorial, like all hospitals, have an obligation to provide care for acute (inpatient) and emergent conditions without regard to a patient’s ability to pay,” said Memorial President/CEO Gary G. Marchand. “The new financial policy does not conflict with the hospital’s obligation to treat acute and emergent conditions. Acute and emergent conditions are exceptions to the new financial policy.”

The hospital said it has seen an increase from 9,000 a year to 13,000 a year in hospital admissions from the ER for people with severe illnesses or injuries. It suggests people with fever, colds and flu, ear infections, rashes and burns, insect bites, sore throats, digestive discomfort, urinary tract infections and other minor conditions should go to a walk-in clinic.

Memorial operates 15 walk-in clinics and it will give anyone with one of the minor conditions a list of its clinics as well as other urgent care facilities and clinics.

“Memorial is the only Level II Trauma Center serving Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson counties,” Marchand said. “To provide the best care possible, we must make sure we have the staff and space available to treat emergency patients.”

He said next year’s budget will pay to expand the clinics’ hours into the evening and on weekends.

“The government and insurers are requiring hospitals to be better stewards of the health-care dollar and to gain operating efficiencies. Right patient, right level of care, right location, right cost, right thing to do,” he said.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com


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