Mercy Hospital Changes ER Policy

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A new policy took effect Monday at Mercy Hospital that affects every patient who comes into the emergency room.

If a patient goes into the emergency room and it is not considered an emergency, the person will be referred to a different care facility or asked to pay a fee up front.

“Each patient is assigned an 'ESI score, it’s kind of a severity score,” said Dr. Matt Dupree, Medical Director for Emergency Services at Mercy Hospital.

A triage nurse now lumps people who come into the emergency room in categories. It is based on a scale from one to five. One is the worst and five is the least severe.

A physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner gives a second opinion then a doctor sees the patient.

“Whether you have insurance or you don’t have insurance, it’s the same process,” said Dr. Dupree.

Mercy Hospital says if the person’s condition is not severe, he or she can pay $150 for treatment in the emergency room. If the person does not have the money ,doctors refer the patient to another facility.

“There’s several options in the community where they can go and that is cheaper,” said Dr. Dupree.

Some disagree with the new rules.

“Thats wat they told us last nite er doc an the nurse that released him they keep us there 5 hrs just to tell us they can give u clinics to go to but thats it y waste ppls time,” said Dora Dupre Cruz, on the 5NEWS Facebook page.

Jeremy Medlock wrote on the 5NEWS Facebook page, “For one, hospitals CAN NOT refuse to see you even if you don't have insurance. . Also, they canNOT make you pay if you can't afford it. . . What do they want you to do? Write them a hot check? Then we will surely be in trouble.”

Mercy Hospital says they will treat every patient with an emergency.

The Arkansas Department of Health says hospitals can make people without insurance pay a fee. There is not a law against it.

Ed Barham, spokesman for the health department, says there could be repercussions if someone dies.