Area emergency medical personnel say patient-screening procedures at local emergency rooms were enacted to ensure patients get appropriate care and to manage efficiently a growing demand on resources.
Mercy Fort Smith announced a change in policies in mid-July.
Under the new procedures, patients coming to the emergency department first see a nurse who examines them and assigns a ranking based on an emergency severity index of 1-5. Patients with a score of 1, 2 or 3 are emergency patients and proceed through the department as usual.
The hospital considers patients with an index score of 4 or 5 “non-emergent.” An advanced practitioner performs a screening exam, and then a physician sees them to determine if the emergency room is the appropriate place for treatment.
Patients who are judged not to need immediate care are advised of other options for treatment, typically urgent-care facilities or primary-care offices.
Patients can opt to pay a $150 deposit and remain in the emergency department or arrange for treatment at an urgent-care clinic or a primary-care office.
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