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King emergency room turning into urgent care center

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KING, N.C. -- By next year, people who live in King will have to drive out of the city to go to the emergency room.

The only emergency room in King will soon change its services from emergency to urgent care.

Pam Tillman, the CEO of Pioneer Community Hospital of Stokes which runs the ER, says the consolidation is a proactive way for them to keep treating patients while keeping the hospital system afloat.

Tillman says the hospital has been losing millions of dollars over the past few years due to patients not being able to meet high deductibles or not having any insurance.

In both cases, the hospital usually ends up footing the bill.

“If anyone comes in with an emergency, we’re going to take care of them,” Tillman says.

But Tillman says that’s been hurting their bottom line.

Since January, about $1.3 million worth of medical costs have gone unpaid.

“We’re giving free care,” she said. “We can’t do that continuously.”

Instead, Tillman says patients can be taken to the ER in Danbury about 20 minutes away or to emergency departments in Winston-Salem and Mount Airy.

It’s a change Tillman says shouldn’t make a big impact on King residents.

Only six percent of the county’s 911 calls come through King’s emergency room.

“We’re not going to close down,” she said. “We’re going to be here in one way or the other."

But some county officials oppose the idea.

According to The Stokes News, County Commissioner Jimmy Walker told Pioneer officials at a recent county commissioner’s meeting, “I don’t want to shut the door on people who need the service to make your company more profitable.”

The switch to urgent care is expected to be made by the end of 2015.