In Commerce, an otherwise quiet Memorial Day weekend was clouded by anxiety about the possible closure of the Hunt Regional Emergency Medical Center at Commerce. The facility, located on the southwest side of the city at 2800 State Hwy. 24, is the only emergency center in Commerce. It is operated by Hunt Regional Healthcare, which also administers the Hunt Regional Medical Center, the hospital in Greenville.
Multiple posts on social media have said the board of Hunt Regional Healthcare plans to meet at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and that members of the public wishing to conference in can do so by calling 1-877-820-7831 and using passcode 520338#. The fate of the Commerce facility is expected to be discussed and voted on during the meeting, according to a Facebook post by Cumby police officer Jeff Hundley on Sunday.
EDIT, May 26, 4:30 p.m.: Members of the public may participate in the 5 p.m. meeting by calling 1-877-820-7831 and entering code 510228# according to this notice.
On Monday, Hunt Regional Healthcare Public Information Officer Lisa Hill made the following post on Hunt County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Kerry Crews’ Facebook page:
I am the Public Information Officer for Hunt Regional Healthcare and I am posting this response from our Administrator/CEO Richard Carter. Kerry, on behalf of Hunt Regional, I would like to share a few facts and thoughts with you about your concern for the Hunt Regional Emergency Medical Center in Commerce. The Board is not considering a closure of the facility, but they are discussing a transformation of the services from a full time emergency room to a 10-12 hour per day Urgent Care Center. Several key factors are driving this consideration.
First, the economic requirements of a 24/7 emergency room is substantial and given the low patient volumes and minor illnesses of those patients utilizing the Commerce ER, the operation of the ER has led to an annual loss of 2.2 million dollars. This loss is prior to the Covid -19 pandemic. The current situation has created an even greater loss to almost $300,000 per month from March through May, or an annual loss of 3.5 million dollars. Unfortunately, this is unsustainable.
A second key factor driving the discussion is the type of patient utilizing the facility. For those patients utilizing the Commerce ER, 70% of the pre-covid patients qualified as minor care and more appropriate to an Urgent Care Center. Thirty percent, or 6-8 on a daily basis, qualified in the emergency category. For the 70% minor care patients, they are required to pay for services based on an emergency room scale, or about 4 times that of an Urgent Care Center. Fortunately for the 30% requiring emergency care, we have a superior 911 system, very responsive ground ambulance service based at the EMC and two strong first responder groups which serve the Commerce area.
This discussion and ultimate decision is not taken lightly by the Board or Hunt Regional leadership. Our purpose is to serve the community with services they require in a fiscally responsible manner. Sometimes the accomplishment of our purpose is difficult. I hope this information assists your understanding of the discussion.
The Hunt Regional board’s web page does not list information about a May 26 meeting.
The emergency center has served Commerce since its opening in May 2015. In 2013, voters in the Hunt Memorial Hospital District approved a $12.3 million bond package that funded new emergency/outpatient facilities in Commerce and Quinlan, as well as a renovation of the third floor of the Greenville hospital. The bonds, scheduled to be paid back over a 20-year period, increased the hospital district property tax rate by .0181 cents.
The complex includes four exam rooms, four observation rooms, one trauma/treatment room, a helicopter landing pad and ambulance station, and EMS living quarters. A Herald-Banner report from 2015 estimated that about $5 million of the bond package was used to construct the Commerce facility.
Commerce had previously been served by the Hunt Regional Community Hospital at 2900 Sterling Hart Drive, which closed in May 2015 and was torn down in early 2017.
The Hunt Memorial Hospital District dates from 1981. In addition to the Greenville hospital and the emergency centers in Commerce and Quinlan, the Hunt Regional website also lists as its operations a behavioral health center in Commerce; family practice clinics in Commerce, Emory, Greenville and Quinlan; imaging centers in Greenville, Rockwall and Royse City; an urgent care center in Greenville; a specialty practice center in Greenville; a medical park in Greenville, and an outpatient lab service in Sulphur Springs.