Non emergency care requires up-front fee at Highland

Published 1:49 am Sunday, April 26, 2009

A policy change soon to take effect at Highland Community Hospital is aimed at cutting emergency room visits by patients with simple ailments so true emergency care can be faster.

Highland Community Hospital Administrator Steve Grimm said a new policy will go into effect either on May 1, or sometime after that date, that will screen patients coming into the emergency room to determine which really are emergencies. Patients deemed not to have an emergency will be asked to pay a fee before being treated.

Grimm said a similar policy was implemented at Forrest General, which also owns Highland, and the policy reduced emergency room visits by 8 percent. Non-emergency patients who opt not to pay the up-front fee can find care at the Mississippi Rural Health Clinic or another facility such as Manna Ministries, both of which are in Picayune.

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“What we can’t do is use the ER for ailments,” Grimm said.

Last year about 1,382 patients left the emergency room without being seen because the wait was too long, Grimm said. That number is too far from the average and one way to fix that problem will be to reduce the visits that are not emergencies, which clog up the emergency room. Now non-emergency ailments will require an up-front fee and those patients will not be treated before true emergencies are handled.

“We’re not saying we won’t treat you, but when you’re non-urgent, we have no requirement to treat you immediately, Grimm said.

True emergency visits will not require an up-front fee, Grimm said.

The non-emergency up-front fee has not be set yet, but Grimm said it will be a standard amount that may be based on the care the patient requires. While this new policy will offend some in the community, Grimm said it will also benefit the community.