HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Most people assume they can go to any hospital in an emergency, but some people on the West side of Houston are finding out a little late that's not really the case.
Methodist St. Catherine's, off Fry Road near Kingsland, is a hospital that's currently treating about 60 patients. But it's a specialty hospital for long term acute care. It has no emergency room.
"Basically we take care of patients who are still in the acute phase of illness." says hospital administrator, Gary Kempf. "They have a severe illness going on, and they usually come from a short term acute care hospital like Houston Methodist West."
The Houston Methodist Hospital system bought what was Christus St. Catherine's Hospital in 2013, and started transitioning the facility to a specialty hospital. In January 2014, Methodist closed the emergency room that had served the Katy area for more than 10 years.
"We tried to make sure we got the word out when Houston Methodist took over and they closed the ER," Kempf told Fox26.
But Methodist St. Catherine's is still dealing with somewhat of an identity crisis. It's nearly 2 years later and people are still showing up needing an emergency room.
On November 17th, Methodist St. Catherine had to call Life Flight Helicopter for a seriously wounded gunshot victim. His family drove him there, with bullet holes in their vehicles, after a triple shooting in Katy. The family, of course, expected an emergency room.
"Every time somebody comes in looking for an emergency room, we always call 'Rapid Response,'" Kempf says. "We have nurses and respiratory therapists check them out, triage them, and we always call 911."
On that evening, Life Flight was needed. During another emergency, though, a woman ended up giving birth in the hospital's parking lot.
There are signs that say there's no emergency room, but in emergencies, people don't stop to read signs.
One person familiar with the hospital told Fox26 people arrive looking for an emergency room nearly every day.
"It's not a daily thing," Kempt says. "It's actually getting less and less as we establish ourselves more."
Kempf tells us real emergencies come there a few times a month. He knows it's hard to change the perception of a facility so engrained in the community, so he says the hospital makes sure they can get patients where they need to go, quickly.
"I don't know that we're ever going to get everyone to know that we don't have emergency care," he said. "So if they show up, we want to be ready for them, and get them to that next level of care."
Ambulance services know not to bring emergency patients to Methodist St. Catherine's Hospital. It's the do-it-yourselfers who need to be reminded.