From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 5 - April 23, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Clinic walk-in system clarified

by Joy Ufford

A sick child with a high fever, someone knocked down with a nasty flu – these are situations where the stricken (or their guardians) feel an urgency to see a doctor as soon as possible without making an appointment for later that day or week.

But can walk-ins be treated as quickly as they’d like, to feel more comfortable?

While some recent visitors to the Pinedale Clinic feel that answer is “no,” Rural Health Care District (RHCD) officials say all in all, the answer is “yes.”

“We will see any patient whom walks through our door during office hours as a walk-in,” responded Dr. James Quirk, medical director of the Pinedale Clinic, when asked about this type of urgent scenario.

He and RHCD CFO Lorraine Gatzke expressed concern that complaints might be made about the length of time a prospective patient could wait for a doctor and about availability of timely treatment for walk-ins.

“Many” same-day appointments are available at the Pinedale Clinic where “we have one provider … when staffing allows, dedicated to same day/walk-in appointments,” Quirk said.

As an example, Quirk said, a patient’s mom might call and say, “My child is sick, can I come to the clinic.”

Staff response would be, “Yes, you can come right now and you will have to wait for the next available provider or you can come at 10 when Dr. X has an opening,” he said.

“The patient’s mom has a choice to be seen immediately and have to wait for the next available provider, which is the way it has always been, or stay at home and give her sick kid some TLC, some juice and know whom they will see and when,” he said. “We actually have received some excellent feedback on this system.”

Gatzke also noted, “Please remember there are some seasonal times that are inherently busier, such as the flu season, and waits are always prolonged.”

If a patient walks in during office hours and is “deemed emergent,” Quirk said, “they will be seen in minutes by a doctor.”

The 2006 average emergency-room wait to see a doctor nationally was three hours, 42 minutes, Quirk said, adding the “average time in Utah was four hours and five minutes.”

“Our wait times have dropped dramatically and we get people through the clinic quicker because a vast number feel it is better to have a scheduled appointment time so they can better plan their day,” he said of the same-day appointment system.

Normal office hours at the Pinedale Clinic are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. At the Marbleton/Big Piney Clinic, office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

“We have actually added the walk-in service with same-day appointments and Saturday clinics,” Gatzke said of the Marbleton/Big Piney clinic.

“If a patient walked into any clinic without an appointment for a non-emergent ailment, there would be some wait time,” she said. “The same goes for an urgent care center or an emergency room.”

“During regular office hours there is no (Emergency Room) charge in Pinedale,” Quirk said.

After hours, the clinics do not have staff on site and people seeking treatment have to call “911” or the sheriff’s department so the on-call provider can be contacted, he explained.

“Depending on the complaint the provider will call in after-hours staff like nursing, lab or x-ray and meet the patient at the clinic, usually within minutes, and assess the individual,” he said. “There is an after-hours charge not covered by some insurance policies for this 24/7 365-day-a-year coverage.”

“In summary the people (who complained about not getting immediate treatment when sick) are misinformed about the almost instant availability to medical care they have in their community,” he said.

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