Tarrant Co. Hospitals Cut ER Overcrowding

Two Tarrant County hospitals are teaming up to fight emergency room overcrowding by helping patients find personal doctors.

Texas Health Fort Worth and John Peter Smith Hospital both see about 80,000 to 90,000 patients per year in their emergency rooms. Some of those patients use the ER for routine medical care, like a doctor's office.

"They're designed to deal with emergencies," said Robert Earley, president of JPS Hospital. "They're not there to fill prescriptions. They're not there to deal with a sore throat."

The two hospitals are now trying to connect frequent ER users with primary-care doctors through a county-funded program. Uninsured patients are linked with doctors at JPS who can provide low-cost care.

"They have a clinic system they can access in a more appropriate way," said Oscar Amparan, president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth.

For patients such as Nancy Martinez, the program has been a major improvement. Martinez, a mother of three who does not have insurance, used to visit ERs for routine care.

But after doctors diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis during a visit to the Texas Health Fort Worth ER, the staff helped enroll her in the JPS Connections program. Now she has her own doctor who tracks her treatment.

"It's just peace of mind knowing I have that, and I can go see a doctor anytime I need," Martinez said.

Officials at the two hospitals said they hope to expand the program if it works well to include other Tarrant County hospitals as well.

"Getting your checkups, knowing you have a place to go, is really what preventative care is all about," Early said.

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