Are Freestanding Emergency Centers real emergency rooms?
Freestanding emergency centers such as Bellaire ER in the US have experienced phenomenal growth in the recent past. They offer a model of health care that is committed to speed, quality, and ensuring patients get access to physicians. There have been many misconceptions around these FECs that need to be cleared. One of the popular myths is that they are not real emergency rooms. However, this is just a myth, as the facts presented here will show.
They are bound by the same rules as emergency rooms
The first state to license FECs was Texas, in 2009. Today, it has led to over 200 independent FECs in the state and over 100 hospital-affiliated ones. These FECS are usually found within neighborhoods, and they offer patients care in a timely manner.
The FECs are bound by the same rules as other hospital ERs. The rules that were drafted for the establishment of the FECs are similar to those that govern all ERs in the country. Thus, this cannot be true that they are not true ERs.
FECs cannot turn away any patient who needs emergency care
Just like an ER, an FEC is bound by the law to offer patient care to anyone who turns up at its doorstep. This is quite similar to what happens when you walk into an ER. Whether you are on Medicaid, Medicare or uninsured, you have to be stabilized at the FEC. This has led to millions of uncompensated hours spent stabilizing patients in different stages of distress. It is just more proof that an FEC is the same as an ER.
FECs must have a doctor trained in emergency care present at all times
One of the cardinal rules for any ER is that a doctor, trained in emergency care has to be present there at all times. Otherwise, it cannot be classified as an ER. There are also huge legal penalties for failing to uphold this rule. It is the same in an FEC; a doctor must be on call at all times to cater to patients who need their services.
FECs must be open 24/7, 365 days a year
Even when a hospital has to shut down some of its operations, the emergency room must always be open. This is the same rule as with an FEC. Patients must be able to gain access to it whenever they wish and whatever their situation. The only difference to a hospital based ER is that it does not need to be bound to a hospital. This makes an FEC the same as an ER but even more convenient. Patients do not have to worry about a ride to the hospital when the FEC is located within their neighborhood.
FECs can use the word “Emergency” in their signage and marketing material
This is quite significant proof that FECs are the same as an emergency room. If you check the law, it states that only an emergency room can use the word “Emergency” in its signage and marketing material. This is done to prevent confusing that may arise where patients are led to believe they are at an urgent care center. FECs have been allowed by law to use the word “Emergency.” This proves that they are indeed emergency rooms for purposes of legal definitions.
FECs must have a nurse trained in emergency care present at all times
This is another rule that makes them the same as any other emergency room. When you go to a hospital ER, you will usually find nurses present trying to offer quick care to patients and refer the rest to the doctor. This is the same with an FEC. However, one difference may be that FECs are usually less crowded. Thus, you will still get access to an ER nurse, but one who is under less pressure since they are dealing with fewer people.
FECs can only stabilize patients and refer them to hospitals for inpatient care
If FECs were just any other health facility, they would be allowed by law to provide inpatient care. However, that cannot be possible. They can only stabilize patients before letting them go to a hospital for inpatient care. It is just more proof that an FEC is no different from an ER. In an ER, only patients who are being stabilized occupy beds. Once they are stable, they are shifted to the hospital. This is also, what happens in an FEC. It just proves they are no different from an ER attached to a hospital.
FECs are required to have the equipment used to screen and diagnose emergency room cases
If FECs were indeed different from an ER, this rule would not apply to them. They must have the basic equipment present in an ER. They also have to have staff that can use the equipment to make a diagnosis and to stabilize patients.