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Stitches And A Latte: The Rise Of The Freestanding ER


Five stories that have North Texas talking: Freestanding ERs are popping up like daisies in the Lone Star State, a distemper outbreak in Wylie claims another big cat, burnt orange is the biggest college merchandise moneymaker (again) and more.

If you fall off a ladder and break your ankle or crack your head open on the car door, to the emergency room you usually go. When we think ER, we tend to envision an emergency department attached to a major hospital; triage, long waits, etc. But these days, especially in Texas, emergency care often stands alone, and many of the freestanding ERs come with coffee bars and plush leather recliners.

In the past four years, about 400 standalone ERs have opened across the United States. Houston already has 41, and 10 more are in the works. They’ve grown roots in strip malls and tend to be quieter than traditional ERs. Health economists say they provide excellent medical care, but many charge astronomical fees.

Take the example that KUHF's Carrie Feibel shared today on Morning Edition:A suburban Houston man with back spasms took himself to what he thought was an urgent care facility for treatment. It actually was a freestanding ER, and he left with a shot in the back, a prescription and a bill for $1,200. The facilities fee alone was $900. (Tomorrow on Morning Edition, KERA's Lauren Silverman explores another of the new-school health-care ideas: the "medical home," a one-stop preventative health-care shop. There you could see a doctor, get blood drawn and schedule your MRI all under one roof.)

  • Sixth Big Cat Death Came As Shock: The veterinary emergency continues in Wylie as staffers at In-Sync Exotics fight a heartbreaking battle with canine distemper. A sixth big cat died Sunday night, and employees say it happened out of the blue. The white tiger Kazuri had tested positive for distemper but had been eating and playing like normal all day. That night, staffers say they think he had the equivalent of a grand mal seizure. Another tiger, Lucca, died Thursday after spending weeks in isolation and suffering partial paralysis.

  • The Intersection Of Football And Fallujah: We’re deep into NFL preseason, college football rankings are out, and high school athletes are braving surface-of-the-sun-level temperatures to get ready for game day. But researchers in Dallas are more concerned with safety than statistics. UT Dallas’ Center for Brain Health is funded in part by the Department of Defense to study traumatic brain injury, especially in young people. The average age of troops returning with TBI is 19. Since we know the frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until age 25, that has implications on the gridiron. KERA’s BJ Austin explains in the latest installment of our series Battlefield Breakthroughs.

  • Credit Dave Hensley / Flickr
    This little Longhorn is doing his part to help UT merchandise sales stay on top.

    UT Hooks Top Merchandise Spot... Again: The Longhorns may only be 15th in the NCAA preseason polls, but chants of “we’re number 1!” are no doubt ringing through the merchandise office. For the eighth straight year, the University of Texas collected the most royalties of any college or university represented by the Collegiate Licensing Company (which basically includes every major school except Ohio State, USC and Oregon). Texas A&M got a big bump in sales thanks to Johnny Manziel’s Heisman win. The school that saw the biggest merch slump was, unsurprisingly, Penn State. [ESPN]

  • Lakewood Singled Out As Top Big-City Neighborhood: CNN Money decided to rank the best neighborhoods in America’s largest cities, and Lakewood snagged the ninth spot on the list. CNN cited art deco commercial architecture, the bustle of White Rock Lake, a low crime rate and great elementary schools in the pro column. But Lakewood got docked for a lack of public transit options. Alamo Heights in San Antonio also made the list, as did Houston Heights in Houston.
Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.