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CASPER, Wyo. — Mountain View Regional Hospital’s emergency room will remain open, despite earlier plans to shutter the department.

The east Casper specialty hospital will continue to provide limited emergency care related to the surgical services it offers, said CEO Jeff VanHorn. Patients with cardiac or childbirth emergencies will be treated at nearby Wyoming Medical Center, which has a larger ER that is better suited for those circumstances.

Mountain View officials sought state permission in 2011 to close their emergency room, arguing it lacked services that might be required in certain life-threatening situations. That could delay treatment as patients are transported to WMC.

The state Department of Health responded by exempting specialty facilities like Mountain View from a rule that requires Wyoming hospitals to operate an emergency department. The change went into effect last September.

Despite the rule change, Mountain View’s ER never closed. Officials intend to continue offering limited emergency services at the hospital, VanHorn said.

“Over time, we just decided this was probably the best way we could serve the community and our patients,” he said.

The hospital, which opened five year ago, can provide quick access to emergency care for people on Casper’s rapidly growing east side. Mountain View has also experienced a rise in patient volume. Maintaining emergency care is one way to generate referrals for its specialty services.

“If we have a little higher population base that we are serving, we need to make sure the patients that come here can have access to our specialists,” VanHorn said.

Hospitals tend to lose money on their emergency rooms and rely on other medical services to make up the deficit.

Because Casper has two hospitals, patients who are being transported by ambulance can typically select the hospital they want for emergency care. If they don’t specify a preference, they are taken to Wyoming Medical Center, which is Natrona County’s designated trauma center.

Some situations don’t allow a choice. Patients with heart-related problems will be transported to Wyoming Medical Center regardless of their preferences. WMC is the only hospital in Natrona County with a cardiac catheterization lab, where doctors can open blocked arteries during a heart attack.

Mountain View offers limited emergency services related to neurosurgery, orthopedics and general surgery, VanHorn said. So a patient with a burst appendix could tell paramedics where he’d like to go for treatment.

More patients began using Wyoming Medical Center’s emergency department after Mountain View asked permission to close its ER, said medical center CEO Vickie Diamond. She doesn’t expect a change in patient volume now that Mountain View has decided to retain its emergency room.

Diamond backed Mountain View’s 2011 request to close its emergency room. She also supports its decision to limit the type of emergency services it provides to the community, since it will mean heart attack and stroke patients receive care without transportation delays.

“Time is muscle and time is brain,” she said. “If they stop there, they are wasting 35 to 40 minutes. From that perspective, it’s better for the community that they are limiting their services.”