TX Hospitals Rely on Freestanding ERs Amid COVID Surge
Amid the worst wave of COVID-19 to date, hospitals across the state are grappling with a lack of ICU bed availability. However, freestanding emergency rooms in Texas are proving an essential frontline resource for the overwhelmed healthcare system.
When no hospital beds are available, these freestanding ERs take in patients who would otherwise end up lining hospital hallways, waiting rooms and in some cases, parking lots.
“For us, this is the worst surge since COVID has started,” said Dr. Robert Velarde of Altus Baytown. “It’s hectic. It’s tiring. It’s stressful, due to a lack of hospital beds.”
Freestanding ERs, similar to hospital ERs, are designed to triage, stabilize and when necessary, prepare patients for transfer to the Intensive Care Unit or surgery to receive additional care not provided in the emergency room.
“We’re having to take care of not only emergency patients but also ICU-level patients,” said Jeffrey Beers, a board-certified emergency room physician at a freestanding ER in Longview.
In recent weeks, however, staffing shortages have prevented some hospitals from being able to accept transfer patients from freestanding ERs, despite transfer agreements between the facilities. In many cases, freestanding ERs are holding patients for days while attempting to find a hospital that can care for them.
“We are the first line of defense. Patients come to our emergency center when they require oxygen or an ICU bed. We get them stabilized, and then we immediately start working on a transfer and typically that would take an hour or so,” said Dr. Jeremy Gabrysch, director of the Emergency Clinic in La Vernia, TX. “Now we’re seeing that it takes days sometimes, where we’re caring for these patients while our doctors and nurses are on the phone trying to get beds for these patients. In some cases, we’re calling hospitals as far away as Laredo or Corpus Christi even, if the beds in San Antonio are not available, just trying to find an ICU bed for a patient we are caring for in our emergency room.”
Lisa Brown has decades of experience in corporate communications and marketing management with organizations including Coldwell Banker Residential, Grubb & Ellis, Marcus & Millichap, NAIOP, SIOR and ALM.
In those positions, she worked in conjunction with chief executive officers and chief marketing officers to create corporate messaging, cohesive branding standards, strategic marketing plans and thought pieces. Brown is a frequent speaker at industry events and an editing adjunct professor for an online course. She has a master’s degree in mass communications from San Jose State University.