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Freestanding emergency room in Wichita closes

The conversion of a medical facility should receive city scrutiny due to tax breaks granted based on its original use.

The Wichita Eagle reports that a freestanding emergency room in northeast Wichita has closed after two years. It will be converted to a cardiology office under the same ownership.

As I reported in Free standing emergency department about to open in Wichita, the facility received property tax abatements worth an estimated $61,882 per year in the first year. The abatement was scheduled to last for five years, with a likely extension for an additional five years. These abatements were obtained through the use of the industrial revenue bonds program.

The emergency room, also called a freestanding emergency department, qualified for tax abatements under a city policy that “requires medical facilities to attract at least 30% of patients from outside the Wichita MSA.” It is not known whether the shift from an emergency department to a cardiology office will meet this requirement.

Further, the ordinance the council passed refers specifically to “an emergency medical facility,” not a cardiology office.

These two significant changes ought to, at minimum, be brought to the attention of the Wichita City Council.

Also reported in Free standing emergency department about to open in Wichita, treatment in these emergency departments is expensive. While I do not have information on this specific ED, UnitedHealth Group found this in its analysis of freestanding emergency departments: “FSEDs largely treat non-emergent conditions: 2.3 percent of FSED visits in the U.S. are emergent or immediate and require services unique to an ED.” Also, “In Texas, the average cost of treating common conditions at an FSED ($3,217) is 22 times more than at a physician office ($146) and 19 times more than at an urgent care center ($167).” UnitedHealth Group is a large insurer.

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