The Harris County Hospital District says tomorrow it will start diverting non-urgent patients away from emergency rooms.
Officials say it's an effort to reduce emergency room overcrowding brought on by walk-in patients seeking care for relatively minor problems.
Under the RightCare program, Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals will screen adult patients and refer those who don't need urgent care to community health clinics.
The two hospitals serve the county's needy and have operated with open-door policies. But officials say it costs more to treat people in emergency rooms than in clinics -- and that it can saturate a service meant for patients with critical needs.
Patients with non-urgent symptoms who demand emergency-room treatment will have to pay 150 dollars.
Officials say program assistants will help patients locate convenient community clinics. District spokesman John Martinez says the clinics will try to schedule patients with minor illnesses within a week or two.