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New opioid use policy implemented in ER at Baptist Union County

Baptist Hospital Union County Emergency Room


To help combat the rising risk of an opioid epidemic in Mississippi, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County is changing the way it dispenses narcotic pain medicine to patients in the hospital’s emergency room.  Starting June 19, 2017, ER providers will be strictly limiting the use of narcotics to treat chronic pain, or pain that lasts longer than three months or past the time of tissue healing.

Chronic pain to be treated in ER without opioids

The new policy is in line with a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that narcotic pain medications should not be used in any form in the ER to treat chronic pain.

“Rather than treat chronic pain with narcotic pain medication, we will treat with non-narcotic pain medicine and/or alternate means of relieving pain such as ice, positioning, or splinting,” said ER Medical Director Dr. Robert Pitcock.

Patients who need opioid medication for new, acute pain, or pain where the cause is known, lasting less than three months and that disappears when an injury or illness heals,will receive up to a three-day supply at the provider’s discretion. Patients will receive the lowest effective dosage prescribed for the shortest period of time, says the policy.

The new policy states that with the many serious side effects and the risk of addiction, “chronic pain management is safest through a primary care provider or specialist.” Patients will be given a list of those providers if requested.

Patient safety requires new treatment methods

“The United States faces a severe opioid drug epidemic. Our health care providers recognize that we need to address this epidemic as it relates to care in the ER,” said Pitcock.

The 22-bed ER treated more than 32,000 patients in fiscal year 2016 (October 2015 – September 2016).  An average of 90 percent of these patients is experiencing some type of pain.

The new policy also states that:

  • Patients will not be treated with narcotics on more than three visits to the ER in a 12-month period.
  • ER providers will not replace any narcotic prescription that is lost, stolen, expired or destroyed.
  • Demerol will be avoided and only given at the provider’s discretion.

“Patient safety remains at the forefront of all we do in health care,” said Randy White, Baptist Union County chief nursing officer. “With all the literature published recently regarding opioid abuse and misuse, this is an opportunity for us to embrace a new way to provide safe and effective care for our patients.”

These categories of patients will not receive any narcotics at any time:

  • Patients who have been receiving narcotics from multiple providers
  • Patients with forged or altered prescriptions
  • Patients who give false information or attempt to obtain medication with false information.

The policy further states that if a patient presents with false or forged prescription information that the appropriate law enforcement will be notified.

Baptist participates in Mississippi’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Baptist Union County will be using Mississippi’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), an electronic database used to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients,to help identify those who “doctor shop”to receive multiple opioid prescriptions. “Patients who have an acute condition will still be treated with appropriate pain medications in the ER and can be given a three-day prescription of narcotic pain medication at the provider’s discretion,” said Pitcock.

More than three million prescriptions for opioids such as Norco and Lortab were filled in Mississippi in 2015.According to the CDC, opioid drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with more than 40 people dying every day from overdoses involving prescription drugs.

According to hospital leadership, the new policy shows that Baptist Union County is committed to being a partner with the community to effectively address and diminish the opioid epidemic locally while consistently managing acute and chronic pain for patients in the ER. Baptist Union County’s ER is designated as a Level III Stroke Center and a Level IV Trauma Center.

Baptist Union County, the recipient of many awards and accolades, was most recently recognized by Premier as one of only three hospitals in the nation that achieved top performance in all seven of the areas measured in Premier’s Quest collaborative. The hospital was awarded the Outstanding Patient Experience Award by Healthgrades and was named a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of health care organizations in America, in 2012 and 2013. Baptist Union County offers a variety of health care services, including adult and pediatric inpatient services, labor and delivery, outpatient and laser surgery and a 24-hour,  renovated emergency room. The hospital also offers telemedicine and imaging and laboratory services, including an American College of Radiology-accredited MRI machine.

For more information about Baptist Union County, please call 662-538-7631 or visit

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