Urgent Care Clinic coming

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A new after-hours and weekend Urgent Care Center will open this fall at Bridgton Hospital, filling a need for summer visitors and residents who either don’t have a primary care doctor or can’t get an immediate daytime appointment.

The center, following a growing urgent care clinic trend, will open on Sept. 7. It will operate on a walk-in basis from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday as well as Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the specialty clinic area to the left of the hospital’s main entrance. Patients will enter through the left side door and be seen for acute illness and injury care by Nurse Practioner Ed Enos. Enos, a former BH Emergency Room nurse, is returning to Bridgton to work. The Urgent Care Clinic will be directed by Sue Rivet, RN, director of Oncology and Outpatient Services.

“We’ve had many requests for an Urgent Care Clinic from the community,” said Rivet, who also manages the hospital’s specialty clinics that will use the same space in the daytime. “We can take the overflow (from doctors’ offices) if their physician cannot see them and meet the needs of individuals who do not have a primary care physician. Nationally, 80% of individuals who use Urgent Care centers do not have a primary care physician. It is very exciting to bring Urgent Care services to the community. This is a goal that I’ve had and wanted to do for years.”

Rivet’s goal has had the enthusiastic support of the hospital’s board of directors and Bridgton Hospital Vice President John Ludwig, who began working with Rivet last November on the plans.

“A key component is the access problem in this area of establishing a relationship with a physician” in the hospital’s network of five physician practices, Ludwig said. “It’s hard, because these practices are busy,” said Ludwig. “The doctors have a certain amount of acute care patients that they can see in a day or a week, and quickly, they become full.” The Acute Care Center will also take the pressure off the hospital’s emergency room, which, like most emergency rooms, is used by 80% of people who do not have health insurance, statistically speaking.

The Acute Care Center will treat patients for minor, non-life threatening illnesses or injuries such as cuts or abrasions, coughs, colds, earaches, rashes, sore throats and small fractures. A complete list of services provided, and their costs, was expected to be provided this week from the hospital’s parent company, Central Maine Healthcare of Lewiston.

This much is known already, however, about the costs: they’ll be considerably less than visiting the ER.

A trip to the ER for an uninsured patient typically runs around $500, even for an earache; at the Urgent Care Center, Rivet said that same earache can be treated at the hospital for “probably less than $100” and end the need for residents to have to make a trip to similar clinics in Windham, Lewiston or North Conway, N.H.

“We’re going to try to make it as affordable as we can,” said Rivet. There will be set pricing for the most common diagnoses seen. The patient can choose to have the visit billed to his/her insurance company or pay cash at the time of the visit. The patient will be financially responsible for his/her portion of the bill. Insurance companies have started providing co-pays for Urgent Care Centers, Rivet said, and are encouraging consumers not to use emergency rooms for minor illnesses or injuries.

“We’ll have a triage policy to evaluate whether a patient’s needs warrant a higher level of care,” Rivet said. “Patients will be evaluated and if a higher level of care is needed, the patient will be referred to the emergency room.”

Ludwig said the hospital decided to limit the hours for the clinic initially in order to get it off the ground, but that he expects its hours will expand quickly as word gets out, because the need is certainly there.

David Frum, the hospital’s President and CEO, agrees the service is both needed and desired in the community.

“I know (the need for an acute care center) has been in the community conscience for awhile now, and certainly, we live it every day here” with the number of ER visits made for non-life threatening illnesses, Frum said. “Nationally, you’re seeing a market open up for those minor, yet acute needs.”

In Maine, acute care centers run by hospitals have opened up in Wal-Marts — like those in Auburn and Waterville — and in CVS Pharmacy stores. “You never would have thought of it 10 or 15 years ago, but now the reality is, people are trying to compress as much as they can” into a given amount of time, said Frum. “You’re getting your prescription filled anyway, and if you’ve got a child with an earache or a scratchy throat,” the child’s medical need can be taken care of at the same time.

In Bridgton’s case, the Acute Care Center is simply an extension of the services the hospital is already providing, said Frum, which also will help to grow the hospital’s primary care base.

“It’s good for the patient, and good for us,” he said. It’s more cost-efficient, too, because the center will not have the overhead costs of an ER that is staffed with manpower and equipment seven days a week, year round.

Residents who use the Acute Care Center, who have a primary care doctor tied to Bridgton Hospital, can also be assured seamless access to their full medical record, Frum said.

“We’re excited about this. Literally the day I hit the ground here in Bridgton, I began hearing about the need,” said Frum. “And there’s another thing called Murphy’s Law: it’s always after 5 p.m. or on weekends when my kids get sick.”

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