TRMC expands services with Care First clinic

Published 9:44 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

Starting Oct. 4, patients in Pike County will have a new choice for after hours and urgent care, thanks to Troy Regional Medical Center’s new clinic.

TRMC Care First, opening in medical office suites on the hospital campus, will provide an alternative to emergency room care and an alternative source for primary care, said Jennifer Ventress, chief operating officer of TRMC.

“We really want to be available to the community when their primary care doctors aren’t accessible to them,” she said. “For example, if your regular doctor’s office is swamped today, and you have a sore throat and you would normally go to the ER to be seen, we want you to go to our clinic instead.”

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Alternately, she said, if a patient comes to the emergency room and, after screening, medical staff determine that he or she can be treated just as effectively in the clinic – at a lower cost to the patient – he or she will be given that option. “Obviously, the patient can better pay a $30 deductible in the clinic than a $250 deductible in the emergency room,” Ventress said.

The clinic initially will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. “We will expand to include weekends,” Ventress said. It will be overseen by Dr. Chuck Woods and staff will include Roger Kirk, certified pediatric nurse practitioner, and Kathleen Strickland, physicians assistant.

Theresa Grimes, CEO of the hospital, said the decision to expand services with the clinic was widely supported by the medical staff and the Health Care Authority board. “It has been a need in the community that was identified early on, before my tenure here,” she said. “We know the volume is there. We’re underserved in the primary care market, and the patients have to go out of our community for primary care.”

The local medical staff has been supportive of the clinic, because of the overload in primary care. “They are very supportive of having another avenue of treatment for their patients when their offices are closed,” Ventress said.

The clinic also will allow the emergency room to better serve truly emergent cases.

“We also know that 17 to 25 percent of our emergency room patients could be treated in an urgent care clinic,” Grimes said.

For the hospital staff, moving those patients to an urgent care clinic ultimately will improve the quality of care in the emergency room, Ventress said.

“It will allow us to reduce wait times and focus on the emergency care,” she said. The hospital treats approximately 15,000 patients annually in its emergency room.

“And that number continues to increase,” Grimes said.

Ventress said patients who would be candidates for Care First are those who are experiencing sore throats; flu-like symptoms; gastro-intestinal symptoms; “generally not feeling good”’; those needing minimal labs and x-ray services, such as sprained ankles or hurt arms; small suturing; and those with viral symptoms or needing minor first aid.

“And anyone with life-threatening concerns, such as stroke symptoms, heart attack symptoms, should of course come to the ER,” she said.

Ultimately, both Ventress and Grimes said the Care First clinic will help TRMC’s goal of becoming a regional medical hub for Pike Count. “This is a huge piece of what we need to do to accomplish our goals,” Grimes said. “We’re absolutely very excited about it. It’s something we’ve said we’ve needed to do for years, and now we’re able to do it.”