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Another New Freestanding 24 Hr Emergency Room For The Woodlands


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In a first of its kind deal, two hospitals are partnering on a 24 hr freestanding ER in TW. Their doing something that makes sense.

Two traditional competitors for business in North Houston plan to jointly open and operate a $7 million freestanding emergency center in The Woodlands.

The partnership between Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital and Tomball Regional Medical Center will be the first such joint venture in Houston and Texas.

The 11,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to open in September, will be a 24-hour emergency center with up to 10 treatment rooms, imaging equipment and an on-site laboratory.

Both Memorial Hermann and Tomball Regional Medical Center had been eyeing this location, which is about 10 miles from each of the existing hospitals at a point where their market areas overlap.

"We got together and said, why compete? Let's do this together," says Steve Sanders, CEO of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital.

Lynn LeBoeuf, CEO of Tomball Regional Medical Center, says it is unusual for two health care organizations to come together in this way.

"We didn't think it made sense to duplicate costs," he says.

Ann Ward, vice president of communications for the Texas Hospital Association, says the association believes this is the first such collaboration between hospitals in the state.

"It makes sense to put an ER in a community without having a whole hospital," she says. "It's probably market-driven and it probably will help to take some pressure off the flagship hospitals' ERs. It's an innovative way to address some of the problems hospitals are facing."

Although the ER venture is a new one, Tomball Regional Medical Center already has affiliate relationships with Memorial Hermann for managed care and other specific services. But both hospitals are experiencing big strains in their ERs.

"Our respective ERs are very busy -- we're overrun with patients," Sanders says. "We both have utilization issues."

He points out that population growth in Montgomery County is moving north and west, and this ER will be located at the far west end of The Woodlands.

LeBoeuf says the market area is expected to grow by 20 percent over the next four to five years, a projection that is also not lost on other hospitals and emergency health care providers.

St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, for example, opened a freestanding ER on Kuykendahl in The Woodlands in December, about five miles from the planned Memorial Hermann-Tomball facility. St. Luke's already has a full-service hospital and ER in The Woodlands just off Interstate 45.

The Memorial Hermann-Tomball ER will be located in leased space in a strip center that is currently under development at Woodlands Parkway and FM 2978.

For regulatory purposes, the ER will be operated under the Memorial Hermann umbrella.

And, as a hospital-operated facility, it will receive more oversight and scrutiny than the independent physician-owned emergency facilities that have been popping up around Houston, Sanders says.

Emergency survival

Emergency physician Dr. Toby Hamilton says physician ER facilities are likely driving hospitals to expand their ER capabilities. Hamilton is a partner in 24 Hour Emergency Room, which operates facilities on Tomball Parkway and in Sugar Land and has two more slated to open in Katy and Conroe (see "Dueling Sugar Land ERs create healthy alternative," Dec. 7, 2007).

"This trend is emerging quickly in Houston," Hamilton says. "Physicians are getting into this market, and now the hospitals want to get in on it."

But at the rate these facilities are opening, some in the industry believe not all of them will survive.

Houston Business Journal

Edited by Bubba
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