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Premier ER Plus plans to open another location Oct. 24 to serve the Temple and Belton area.

Staff photo— Jerry Larson, file

Premier ER and Urgent Care has opened its second Greater Waco location to provide a range of critical and minor-emergency services, this one near University Parks Drive and the Interstate 35 frontage road, next to the Twisted Root Burger Co. and across the highway from Baylor University.

Premier ER is a privately operated emergency center with capabilities usually found in hospital emergency rooms. The new facility will remain open and staffed with physicians 24 hours a day. Registered nurses, radiology technicians and support staffers also will work at the center.

“We specialize in unscheduled care, providing the patients with the full spectrum of urgent care and emergency care,” said Dr. John Hamilton, president and chief medical officer of Premier, which opened its first facility at 9110 Jordan Lane in Woodway in August 2014.

The company plans to open another location Oct. 24 to serve the Temple and Belton area.

“We are committed to doing what is best and right for the patient,” Hamilton said in a statement. “We provide economic value to our patients, as they are able to enjoy the benefits of urgent care billing for urgent care needs, but also are able to provide comprehensive emergency care to our patients for more complicated and challenging conditions. We want to eliminate the stress for families when deciding where they need to go for their urgent or emergency needs. We provide both well.”

The new Premier ER and Urgent Care location will serve the downtown area that is growing with residential and commercial development.

‘Never be closed’

“We will never be closed,” Hamilton said. “We want to be available for our patients both before and after school or work, so they won’t have to miss either, if possible.”

Premier can provide laboratory services, in addition to X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds.

Hamilton said a common misconception is that all patients facing emergency medical situations need to be seen in hospitals.

“Statistically, more than 85 percent of all ER visits in this community are sent home and don’t require a full hospital system,” he said. “The hospitals in our community, Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest (Medical Center) and Providence Health Center, provide excellent care and are committed to providing the best service for our community’s sickest patients. We have close relationships with both hospitals and all physicians in the area and are serving to assist in reducing the backlog of the less critical patients.”

Premier facilitates the relocation of patients who need surgery or need to be treated in a hospital.

“Out patients do not have to go to another ER but right to their hospital bed if needed,” Hamilton said in the press release. “There are no double ER bills and a faster process.”

Premier ER and Urgent Care does not participate in Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare but does accept private insurance and would like to accept the public options in the future, he said.

“We promise to work with our patients to make sure their insurances do what they are required by law and contracted to do,” he said.

During a phone interview, Hamilton said an investment group that includes physicians owns Premier ER and Urgent Care and that 11 doctors and seven physician assistants, or nurse practitioners, are assigned to the two locations. He said about 115 staffers, not including physicians, are employed at the two facilities.

The Urgent Care team typically sees patients suffering sore throats, coughs, colds and simple lacerations, while the ER sees many suffering severe abdominal pain, chest pain or altered mental states. He said it often is faster to be seen at Premier ER and transferred to a hospital “because we’re very focused on expedited testing and care delivery.”

Hamilton said hospitals have admitted 600 patients transferred from Premier ER the past two years, and only two were sent to the hospital ER for further evaluation.

Each Premier ER facility represents an investment of between $6 million and $8 million, including the structure that must be built to higher standards because they are devoted to health care, as well as equipment and diagnostic devices to perform CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds and laboratory work-ups.

Hamilton, who supervised Providence Health Center’s emergency operations for 14 years, said Premier ER is performing well financially.

He said investors will break ground next month on a Premier location in San Marcos and also plan to place an Urgent Care location in China Spring next spring.

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