May 8, 2014 5:57 PM by Leah Kraus
It's now fairly simple to go to the emergency room without visiting a hospital.
Texas-based company "First Choice Emergency Room" has opened up a free-standing ER on North Powers Blvd. in Colorado Springs and another will open by the end of the month.
However, growing right along these stand-alone emergency rooms is controversy.
Elisabeth Arenales, the Health Care Program Director at the Colorado Center for Law and Policy says consumers
need to be more aware of what these emergency rooms are and what they are not.
"What we're worried about is that they'll think they're going to a hospital emergency room with all the facilities that are there," she says.
Arenales is especially concerned about the time it will take to transport people from a free standing ER
to a hospital if they need a higher level of care.
She is also concerned about the cost to consumers. She says that in most cases you'll pay more for the same care at a free standing ER than one attached to a hospital.
Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sens. Irene Aguilar and Steve King would have prevented stand-alone emergency rooms not under a hospital's license from charging people high emergency facility fees. The bill died in the legislature.
In Pueblo West, Parkview Medical Center opened its emergency services center in 2008 because they wanted increased access to health care in that area.
Rob Thames, Chief Operating Officer says the facility has the same governing board and medical staff as the hospital and that costs between the two are the same.
"In our case, any physician has to go through the same credentialing process as they would here at our main campus where we're a level 2 trauma center," he says.
Thames says wait times are also lower at Pueblo West. Two hours for the total visit as opposed to three at the ER attached to the hospital.
"I think it is one of the things we'll see more of," he says.
First Choise says they're continuing to expand in the area because of the response. In a statement to News 5, First Choice Spokesperson Andrew Jordan says "First Choice Emergency Room is just like a hospital based emergency room with the same staff, equipment and capabilities. Our facilities are licensed by the state of Colorado and are accredited by the Joint Commission, the same organization that accredits hospitals."