There was a time, as recently as the 1960s, when a medical emergency in Lake Houston required a frantic 20-mile trip in a funeral car down two-lane Highway 59 to the nearest hospital located in downtown Houston.
Imagine Lake Houston without its vast collection of medical centers, free-standing urgent and emergency centers, and physicians specializing in every imaginable medical specialty.
Oh, how times have changed.
“We’ve seen significant and accelerated growth in medical facilities recently, Memorial Hermann Northeast and Vital Heart and Vein in Humble, and HCA Kingwood and the new Kingwood Emergency Hospital,” said Mark Mitchell, president of the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership.
“These health-care facilities represent more than 400,000 square feet of new health-care space in Lake Houston overall, with a significant portion of that space dedicated to emergency and urgent care,” he said.
Mitchell pointedly said the pace of health care has accelerated in recent years simply because Lake Houston requires it.
“In 1980, there were just under 60,000 people in Lake Houston,” Mitchell said, “and now, 35 years later, we have more than 280,000 residents with an estimate of more than 300,000 lives within a couple of years.”
The need for additional emergency services has been sorely needed during the last decade, Mitchell said, and the emergency care growth we’re now seeing is a result of trying to keep pace and catch up with the population growth.
Recent Lake Houston weather has contributed to the need for additional services as well.
“As we have seen during recent rain events, having multiple medical facilities throughout our community eliminates the need to seek care outside our community during times of emergency,” said Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin. “Having medical resources throughout the interior of Kingwood and Lake Houston isn’t just convenient, it’s a huge asset in the event of a disaster.”
The Tribune contacted Lake Houston’s three major medical care facilities, Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital, HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood and Kingwood Emergency Hospital, to learn in their words about medical care services available to Lake Houston residents in times of emergency.
Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital
Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital operates three functioning emergency departments – the main facility on the Northeast campus in Humble, a second at the Convenient Care Center (CCC) in Summer Creek, and a third at the Kingwood CCC, according to David Beck, Northeast’s Emergency Services director.
Each department is staffed 24/7 with board-certified emergency-room physicians and emergency room-trained nurses working as one system, forming a triangle of care covering the Lake Houston area. Certified critical-care advanced nurse practitioners and patient care technicians trained in EKGs, phlebotomy and IV skills assist to allow nurses more time to provide direct patient involvement.
The Northeast ER has 37 beds, the Summer Creek facility is expanding to 11, and the Kingwood CCC has nine beds. Much of what Memorial Hermann’s emergency staff manages would be considered specialized, according to Beck: stroke, STEMI and trauma, for example, as well as treating diabetes, dialysis, seizures and even the common flu.
Beck says Northeast is fortunate to be part of the Memorial Hermann System, including Memorial Hermann Life Flight, so that “… we can quickly transport a patient requiring a ‘higher level of care’ that is available at another Memorial Hermann facility.
“We are very community and partnership driven,” Beck said. “Our staff regularly attends community and business health fairs and workshops. We partner with our local EMS services to provide the best service and we take pride in caring for our community.”
HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood
HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood offers full-service emergency care, including tertiary care without having to travel to the medical center, according to Carl Balcom, emergency department director, and Dr. Anita Datta, emergency medical center director.
Kingwood has 29 emergency care beds and is a certified comprehensive stroke center and accredited chest pain center. They provide almost every one of the services one can get in the Texas Medical Center, according to Balcom and Datta. Kingwood’s emergency services include a child-friendly Pediatric Emergency Center, an Obstetrical ER housing an OB/GYN physician 24 hours every day, and a “treat and release” unit that provides freestanding ER experience with all the services of a full-service hospital.
The hospital also has expanded its emergency care through a freestanding emergency center in Fall Creek and a second in Cleveland to open soon.
“As a member of HCA Houston Healthcare, in the rare event we can’t provide specific treatment,” Balcom and Datta said, “we take advantage of being part of Houston’s largest health-care system and can transfer a patient to a sister facility.”
Kingwood’s trauma, stroke and cardiovascular departments provide regular community education at local health-related events, and the hospital’s Kingwood Health Academy hosts free monthly community classes.
The Kingwood campus also received institutional accreditation for two residency programs and, beginning in July, will train future internal medicine physicians and surgeons.
Kingwood Emergency Hospital
Kingwood Emergency Hospital is more than an emergency room, according to CEO Jeremy Brynes. “We are licensed by the state as a hospital and provide emergency services to anyone who believes they have an emergency condition.”
If patient condition requires an extended stay, Kingwood Emergency Hospital can treat most patients in one of three private observation rooms or three private inpatient suites.
Kingwood Emergency’s 10 emergency services rooms are staffed 24 hours every day with in-house, board-certified emergency room physicians as well as highly experienced nurses and technicians. “Unlike other hospitals, you will not see a nurse practitioner or physician assistant in our ER,” said Brynes.
Kingwood Emergency Hospital provides concierge-style health care. “Anyone who comes to our hospital will be in front of a physician in a matter of minutes,” said Brynes. “It’s health care the way it should be.”
While most ER patients have their issue resolved during their visit to Kingwood Emergency with a follow-up to their primary care physician or specialist, some patients may have an emergency condition requiring surgery, for example. Kingwood Emergency transfers patients to the nearest facility best equipped to handle the emergency.
“It is important to note that we are a hospital,” said Brynes, “and while our core focus is on emergency and inpatient services, we have the ability to offer almost any service that any other hospital offers – and we will expand our services in the near future.”
To learn more about the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership, visit lakehoustonedp.org.