A bill establishing licensure of free-standing emergency medical care facilities passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday and will be placed on the Senate’s consent calendar.

Senate Bill 49 would set add a license category free-standing emergency rooms and emergency departments that are structurally distinct and separate from a hospital and don’t offer in-patient services.

South Dakota’s first of such facilities, the Avera Medical Group Family Health Center and Emergency Department, recently opened on the west side of Sioux Falls. Deb Fischer-Clemens, Avera’s senior vice president of public policy, said the center will serve the more than 45,000 Sioux Falls residents who live west of Interstate 29.

Tom Martinec, deputy secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health, said the bill is needed to ensure that standalone ERs/EDs meet the same standards as hospital-based emergency medical care facilities. It establishes an annual fee of $500 per facility, although a hospital operating a standalone facility in the same community, such as Avera, is exempt from the license fee because it is operating under its hospital license.