An Oklahoma City hospital has created an additional fee for patients who seek treatment in the emergency room for non-life-threatening ailments and injuries.
OU Medical Center officials announced Tuesday that, starting this week, adult patients assessed in the hospital’s ER who don’t have emergency medical needs will be charged — either their copay or $200 if they are uninsured — if they choose to still receive care through the ER after that assessment.
“If they choose to continue to get care in our emergency department with a nonurgent situation, then they do indeed have that option,” said Kris Wallace, chief operating officer for OU Medical Center.
“At that point in time, we would ask them to either present their copay or pay a facility fee for nonurgent care in an emergency care setting.”
Hospital officials say the policy change is a result of overcrowding in the emergency room.
About 40 percent of the 50,000 patients who sought care at OU Medical Center in 2012 weren’t suffering from serious conditions that would call for emergency room care, according to the hospital.
Because of federal laws, hospitals are required in emergency rooms to evaluate all patients and determine whether an emergency medical condition exists, said Dr. Curt Steinhart, chief medical officer at OU Medical Center.
“If an emergency medical condition exists, we are required to see and stabilize the patient,” Steinhart said. “If there is no emergency medical condition, our obligation ends.”
Under the hospital’s new policy, Wallace said, staff members will help patients who don’t have emergency medical needs find resources in their communities that can serve their health needs.
Staff members will look at where the patient lives, what the patient’s medical need is and what facilities are open near the patient’s home that could provide the care the person needs, she said.
“What we hope to instead promote is — (spending) that time teaching about the community resources available, hopefully connecting people that may not have current primary care providers ... to promote better health in our community.”