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Crucial Care

Fighting to provide ER care to Seniors and Veterans.

Need action now! 

By Amy Morgan

Accidents or unanticipated health crises can happen at any moment. Worrying chest pains, a fall from a ladder, a baby’s croupy cough… These situations can leave you fraught with anxiety. Is it serious enough to brave traffic to drive into town and face a potentially hours-long wait in a hospital emergency room?


You have a better option. Head to Physicians Premier, a free-standing emergency room located west on Highway 46 near the HEB Plus. Physicians Premier offers all the capabilities of a hospital emergency room without the wait or the crowd. 


In an emergency, timing is crucial, according to Lonnie Schwirtlich, M.D., Physicians Premier founding partner, with 43 years of emergency medicine experience. He describes a “golden hour” — the first hour when treatment is optimized for best outcome. You don’t want to waste that time sitting in a waiting room. The location of Physicians Premier is critical to the Far North San Antonio community.


Physicians Premier is staffed 24/7 by board-certified emergency room doctors ready to handle the highest level of emergency situations. Nurses with years of emergency training immediately triage each arrival. The facility can handle any type of traumatic injury or illness, both pediatric and adult, and offers on-site X-rays, CAT scans, a full laboratory and ultrasound. Rather than spending time waiting, patients are seen, treated, and on their way.


Just a few weeks ago, a 52-year old Tri-Care patient’s life was saved by the quick diagnosis and treatment of his heart attack. The father of three presented to Physicians Premier with chest pain, Dr. Schwirtlich said, and was immediately administered medicine and connected to an EKG to monitor his heart activity. Within less than 10 minutes, the man had a massive heart attack and needed to be resuscitated to re-start his heart not once, but three times.

A team led by Dr. Samuel Simpson was able to revive and stabilize him, all while working with Bulverde/Spring Branch Fire and EMS to seamlessly transport him to interventional cardiologist Keith Nguyen, M.D., who was waiting to perform a cardiac catheterization. Turns out, the rupture was in the largest vessel leading to the heart – known as the “widow maker.” This story has a happy ending, as the man’s life was saved.

“I have to give props to Dr. Simpson and his staff. He saved the patient’s life,” Dr. Nguyen said. “In cardiac arrest, time is very essential. Sometimes even when we save their life, patients end up with residual deficit. It was very good to see this patient awake and moving the next day with no deficit.”


“I’m convinced he would have died on the road if he would have passed us and driven in  to San Antonio,” Dr. Schwirtlich said.


But now, continued access to convenient, timely care for Medicare and Tri-Care patients stands in jeopardy. During the COVID emergency, the Federal Government allowed temporary authorization for Medicare and Tri-Care. But unless something changes, freestanding emergency rooms will no longer be recognized as of May 11, 2023, leaving veterans, military service members and senior citizens without the services they so desperately need. 


Dr. Schwirtlich has passionately lobbied the Center for Medicare Services for recognition ever since he first started Physicians Premier in Corpus Christi in 2009 after decades of experience both in emergency rooms and as medical director of hospitals in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley. He realized it was nearly impossible to minimize the volume of patients and wait times at hospital emergency rooms. That’s when Dr. Schwirtlich developed an idea for the lower-cost, higher capability freestanding emergency rooms to relieve the burden and provide better and more accessible care.


“We’ve been seeing Tri-Care and Medicare patients during COVID, and it worked great, with no problems,” Dr. Schwirtlich said. “Our rural farmers and ranchers are essential. We need to maintain their health, and the way to do that is to provide them access to ER care where they need it. We also know that our veterans have served our country well. They should be able to access convenient, high quality emergency care wherever they want. And our military members don’t need to be worried about medical care for their families while they are deployed. We owe it to our heroes to take care of their families.”


Dr. Schwirtlich’s made many friends among legislators who recognize the value of the services facilities like Physicians Premier offer, including Representative Jodie Arrington who introduced the Emergency Care Improvement Act before the legislature now. If you would like to be able to use Physicians Premier ER for your emergency medical needs, please contact your local U.S Congressman (for most, that’s Chip Roy). Let him know you support the bill and ask him to enlighten his colleagues.


“God forbid, we can’t let 5/11 go by and not get this, it will be horrendous for our patients!” Dr. Schwirtlich said.

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