Lake Granbury Medical Center officially broke ground last week in the construction of a new freestanding ER facility to be built on the corner of U.S. 377 and Fall Creek Highway.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the Lake Granbury Emergency Center at Fall Creek took place on Oct. 12, with many well-known community leaders and residents in attendance.
LGMC CEO Curt Junkins announced during the ceremony the freestanding ER facility is about expanding emergency service access in Granbury and Hood County.
“Ultimately, we're committed to the future around that and access to quality care, access for our neighbors, our families and the rest of the community and the people who come to Granbury to see everything that's here in Hood County that we have to offer — and that doesn't happen unless (we all participate).”
Junkins said LGMC staff and administrators, city and county leaders have collectively agreed that an expanding emergency care facility is “ultimately essential for all of us.” He also described how inspiring it is to work with people who share the same goal and vision for Hood County and Granbury.
He thanked Mayor Jim Jarratt, City Manager Chris Coffman, Economic Development Director Lance LaCour, Hood County Judge Ron Massingill and several other community leaders for their assistance and support in getting the project started.
"It's no small thing to be at this stage and to take healthcare to a whole other level where we have this kind of access to an emergency room 24/7 at this end of town and where we can be that support that we always intended to be,” Junkins added.
Jarratt then took to the podium and thanked everyone who had a hand in bringing the freestanding ER facility to life, including his predecessor, former Mayor Nin Hulett.
Coffman said he is thankful for the Granbury City Council for adopting a strategic plan for the city that will encourage health care and the medical industry to grow in Granbury.
"That vision has helped us work with the hospitals to be able to implement this in the middle of a moratorium," Coffman said. “They got creative and figured out a way to meet their needs, until we can get a sewer plant online, so that's part of what we're doing — and we couldn't have done it without the council and previous council. We've been at this for a while, so we're excited. Congratulations on breaking ground.”
Junkins added that LGMC will continue to look for ways to grow healthcare and explained how there’s “no better way to do that than when we all come together.”
ABOUT FREESTANDING ER
Situated on 13 acres, the $15 million, 10,000 square-foot freestanding emergency facility will house an emergency department staffed 24/7 by emergency medical physicians.
“Our goal is to increase access to emergency care on the northeastern side of Granbury as it grows,” Junkins told the HCN on Oct. 16. “That's probably the number one reason behind it. It's no secret Granbury's growing and that side of town is going to grow faster.”
The building will feature eight exam rooms, including a negative airflow room to contain the spread of airborne infections. There will be a major treatment room, a decontamination room, triage, laboratory, and diagnostic imaging services.
Junkins explained the facility is a freestanding ER geographically, as it is not attached to LGMC, but from all other intents and purposes, the facility will be a “virtual hallway” between that location and LGMC.
"That's noteworthy because there are other freestanding ERs that are independent or unaffiliated with hospitals and their services are limited because of that, so our goal is to create that option there,” he said. “Freestanding ERs typically don't keep patients overnight in a bed unless there's a need to be admitted somewhere down to the main hospitals. Most of the time, what (we will) do is, if you walk in and you're having a stroke, for example, or another acute illness, you (will be transferred) from that facility back (to LGMC) where we can treat that patient for more than 24 hours.”
As a department of Lake Granbury Medical Center, the freestanding emergency department will also accept the same insurance plans, including commercial, Medicare and Medicaid, for the convenience of patients.
"If you look at freestanding ERs that are not affiliated with hospitals, they tend to limit insurance availability,” Junkins explained. “They may not take Medicare, or they may not take Medicaid, or they may allow those people to walk in but then they're going to ask them for cash instead. Other freestanding ERs will also run out-of-network. If they run out-of-network, they're going to bill your insurance, which means you have higher deductibles, and you're going to owe a bigger portion. That is not typically what happens with us. We are in-network with the vast majority of insurances, with the exception of probably Baylor Scott & White just because they're a competitor, but other than that, we take the vast majority of all groups, and we strive to do so within reason to make access available.”
Junkins said many residents have expressed concern regarding the future of the current emergency room department at LGMC, but he explained LGMC will continue to provide the same services it does today. The freestanding emergency facility, he said, will simply serve as another option for emergency care in the community.
"The intent is that we are adding to the ER capacities,” he said. “We have 10 beds here, there'll be eight beds up there. Our intent is to cover the entire support as needed for ER but given the growth in the market, we expect that it'll probably outgrow that.”
Another inaccurate assumption about the freestanding emergency facility, Junkins said, is that it can only be accessed by emergency vehicles, and not through private transportation.
"It's actually built to be the opposite,” he said. “We'll take either a private walk-in vehicle or EMS traffic. At the end of the day, it's designed to have even more access availability for a potential broken arm. The more acute it gets, the more likely you are to end up needing services beyond what's at the freestanding, but there are many things you don't want to drive further for, and you want to get treated quickly. We want to make sure people are seeking emergency care when they need to — that's the point of having an ER and having access.”
According to information provided about the new facility, patients with emergent and potentially life-threatening conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, head injuries, fractures, abdominal pain, and respiratory issues, will benefit from the freestanding ER’s convenient location and the access it provides to LGMC's critical care services.
“You can show up with a skinned knee, we can take care of minor stitches, and we can handle checking out a bone to see if it’s broken or not,” Junkins said.
He added that an injury like a major bone fracture could result in the patient being transported to an operating room.
Stroke care, however, is one of the main priorities at LGMC, Junkins said, especially now that the facility is stroke certified.
"We purposely make an effort to try to educate the public and make a difference in the care of strokes,” he explained.
A clot-busting drug given within a four-and-a-half-hour window of the first sign of a stroke could also serve as the difference between life and death, Junkins said, which is why having a freestanding ER facility on the east side of town is beneficial to Hood County.
"That's the big difference, shaving off minutes and time,” he said. “We're creating access to emergency care in places that really in many ways has been kind of split geographically, and I think as it grows, we want to be the first to do that.”
In addition, the new freestanding emergency facility will also benefit Pecan Plantation. Junkins explained that a lot of its pathway for EMS traffic would come right up Fall Creek Highway.
"Hopefully this is a stop where it's easy access for them, versus having to drive all the way north or even south,” he said. “We try to work closely with Texas EMS, and they work with Pecan too, so I hope there's collaborative capability there — and that's the goal is really just to make availability for the entirety of Hood County.”
Junkins added the facility is expected to be completed sometime next summer.
“The point is that the rest of Hood County has grown too,” he added. “You've got growth in Tolar, growth in Pecan, you’ve got growth all over the place. But that northern side, when it grows to that larger capacity, and especially as the county starts pushing 70,000 (residents), you're going to see more and more need — and that's why we want to be first.”