Houston hospitals have become a magnet for patients looking for urgent care and care at home, a trend that’s made them an increasingly popular location for hospital visitors.
But even as the city’s hospitals have grown in size and popularity, they’re also becoming less accessible, particularly to low-income patients.
And a new report finds the city is becoming less affordable for low- and middle-income residents.
Houston’s new guidelines for community health centers have added new rules that could make it more difficult for patients who need urgent care at a community hospital to access it.
According to the report, the rules are likely to increase hospital costs, which will disproportionately affect low- to middle-class patients who rely on community health care for their health care.
“I’ve seen people that have cancer who don’t qualify for Medicare, they get a lot of care at community hospitals,” said Mark Johnson, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the state agency that oversees hospitals.
“We’re trying to ensure that all of our patients get the same care.”
The guidelines require community health center operators to have an approved bed capacity, which means patients must be admitted to the hospital within 30 minutes, according to the CDC.
The guidelines also require all hospital beds to be equipped with a ventilator and to have a “critical care” area for “life support.”
The CDC’s Johnson said the rules will make it harder for patients to access urgent care because “they’re going to be forced to go to the most expensive hospital, where they’re going be charged the most, to the least accessible facility.”
“It will be more difficult and harder for those patients to get to the community health clinic,” Johnson said.
According in the report: The Community Health Center is not considered a hospital unless it has a minimum capacity of 100 beds and has a certified, licensed physician as the medical director.
Community Health Centers that have a minimum of 500 beds and are licensed as a hospital must have an adult physician on staff to supervise and monitor all patient care and to ensure the care is adequate.
The number of beds in a community health facility will be determined based on the number of people in the facility and the availability of beds.
The criteria for a community center may also vary based on community needs.
Community health centers are defined as any type of hospital facility that meets the criteria of a community medical facility (CMPF) under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The guidelines specifically limit the number and type of beds for all CMPFs to 75,000.
Community hospitals have been criticized for being overcrowded and for not having enough beds for patients with chronic health conditions.
The new guidelines are likely intended to limit what happens when these regulations go into effect.
Community clinics have long been under the purview of hospitals.
In the past, community clinics could be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But under the ACA, the requirements were expanded to allow for more flexibility for hospitals to set their own staffing and schedule.
Johnson said it was important to get patients in front of the community medical center, which is more accessible and affordable, and to allow them to visit a doctor in the community if they need care.
Johnson called the new rules “necessary” to make sure “those patients get access to a hospital, and that they get the care that they need.”
The new rules also include a new definition for a “hospital emergency department,” which includes “an urgent care facility with a capacity of less than 1,000 beds.”
According to Johnson, these rules will likely allow the emergency department to remain open 24-7.
“This is a very important piece of the safety net, and we need to make it work for all of us,” Johnson told Newsweek.
“If this continues to be the case, we’re going too far and the safety nets are going to break.”
The rules were approved by the Texas Commission on Community Health and Safety in early December, and were sent to the Texas Legislature for approval.
The recommendations, which were released last week, include the creation of a special district for emergency departments that would include “high-need and medically underserved communities,” which is a group that includes people with chronic illness or disabilities.
They also say that the department would have to have at least 10 beds per floor to accommodate people with disabilities, and “a minimum number of ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) per floor.”
“We need to do everything we can to help people access the care they need,” Johnson added.