Texas Emergency Care Center CEO Rhonda Sandel today asks Governor Greg Abbott to immediately communicate to President Donald Trump the need for freestanding emergency centers to be recognized by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to better serve the community during the COVID-19 and coronavirus pandemic. As a founder and past president of the Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers (TAFEC) and the National Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers (NAFEC), Sandel has worked since 2006 to obtain this recognition for freestanding ER facilities.
As licensed emergency facilities, the State of Texas requires freestanding emergency centers to evaluate and treat all patients that seek care regardless of insurance status or the patient’s ability to pay. However, because freestanding ERs are not recognized by CMS, they do not receive reimbursement for treating Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare patients.
“We love caring for all of our patients and gladly serve the community but would like to be recognized by CMS like other licensed medical facilities so that all individuals have the ability to choose where they seek care,” said Sandel. “We are not asking for anything novel or unconventional. CMS has routinely recognized other innovative, licensed models such as ambulatory surgery centers. They have also recognized telemedicine and urgent cares, which are unlicensed models in Texas. In a world where emergency rooms are overcrowded and have up to 10-hour wait times, freestanding emergency centers provide increased access to quality care by licensed, trained and experienced emergency medicine physicians. We have lobbied the federal government for this change since Texas began licensing freestanding emergency rooms in 2010 and with a looming disaster, now is the time for the federal government to act. Freestanding ERs across Texas work hand-in-hand with hospital ERs on a daily basis and in this situation these centers can provide much needed relief to our healthcare system.”
With more than 200 centers and 1,550 beds across Texas, freestanding ERs can increase the capacity of the healthcare system to test for coronavirus and treat the outbreak, including: beds, pharmacies, supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and trained and experienced emergency medicine physicians and staff capable of treating all urgent and emergent medical conditions.
“Medicare patients are some of the most vulnerable in our community. We treat your mom and your dad, grandma and grandpa in facilities that generally have shorter wait times and are less crowded than other facilities,” said Sandel. “It’s the right thing to do to ensure that these individuals are covered and that freestanding ERs across the country are recognized for the care, treatment, and services they provide. This change would also allow us to fully support hospital ERs and the local communities like we did during Hurricane Harvey.”
“Your team continuously met patient care needs throughout the flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey. Your team remained selflessly ready during a time when other freestanding emergency departments (FSEDs) were closed, and when some hospitals had closed and access to others was perilous,” Darrell Pile, CEO of SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council – Trauma Service Area Q, said in a letter to Sandel on September 19, 2017. “You are setting a role for FSEDs that enables each to become critical members of our emergency system of care.”
About Rhonda Sandel, RN, Texas Emergency Care Center CEO
An active voice and industry advocate, Rhonda began her career in the healthcare industry over 25 years ago as a registered nurse. In 2006 she co-founded Texas Emergency Care Center, joining their team as CEO. As part of their vibrant practice, Texas Emergency Care Center began their own internal revenue cycle efforts, and Gryphon Healthcare was born. Rhonda is also an active, founding member and immediate-past president of the Texas Association for Free-Standing Emergency Centers (TAFEC) and National Association of Free-Standing Emergency Centers (NAFEC).
As an industry leader and expert in healthcare operations and management, Rhonda is sought out by healthcare professionals and legal groups for consulting on practice development and management, ambulatory surgery centers, emergency room operations and management, and legal consulting. She has also been featured in USA Today, Fox Business and the Houston Business Journal.
About Texas Emergency Care Centers
One of the first freestanding emergency rooms in Texas, Texas Emergency Care Centers opened its doors in 2006 with the mission to provide the highest level of emergency medical care to each patient we treat. The physicians at Texas Emergency Care Center are residency-trained and board certified or board eligible in Emergency Medicine. Our 24/7 emergency rooms are located in the Greater Houston areas and are Joint Commission Accredited. For more information or to contact Texas Emergency Care Centers, visit www.txercare.com and follow @TxErCareHouston on Twitter and @TxERCare on Facebook.
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