To the Editor:
Since October of 2013, the St. Andrew’s campus has provided urgent care services to hundreds of patients 12 hours a day, every day. By definition, urgent care services provide treatment for medical problems such as an illness or injuries that need attention but are not life-threatening emergencies.
As a physician, I had been growing increasingly concerned about the quality of care that could be provided to our community in such a limited setting and I am convinced that our patients are now receiving the right level of care at the right facility.
Recently we received certificate of need approval from the Department of Health and Human Services authorizing Lincoln County Healthcare to acquire control of Miles Memorial Hospital, St. Andrews Hospital, and Cove’s Edge.
Along with that approval the state requested that LincolnHealth abide by three conditions. We are pleased to adhere to reporting on the status of our final critical access approval and to report on improvements in quality and outcome measures related to certain community services.
We were surprised by the condition that we extend our current 12-hour-a-day status for urgent care to 24 hours a day.
Due to the types of illness and injuries that are seen at an urgent care center, it is extremely rare to be open 24 hours a day – in fact, I am aware of only one such facility in the country and it is located in a large metropolitan area in California.
We anticipate very little to be gained for the community as a result of this requirement. In reality, we believe the negative consequences will far outweigh the benefits and we feel compelled to ask the Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider this condition.
Keeping the urgent care center open at night will require an enormous amount of money that could be better spent addressing the true medical needs of the community.
While the change would be convenient for a very small number of patients, it would in no way improve the overall health of the community.
In addition, we are concerned that individuals in the Boothbay region may think that emergency care is returning to the St. Andrews campus and that appropriate emergency services may be delayed if they choose to present at the urgent care center instead of calling 911.
Over the past several months we have been talking to our community about their needs and the future of health care. Together we are developing a vision ensuring that we meet the true needs of the community.
On the St. Andrews campus, we have expanded and renovated the wellness and rehabilitation services facility, we have improved primary care by increasing funding for the patient-centered medical home, and we have expanded the wound care center, all while implementing significant price reductions.
I urge you to support us in our request to the state for reconsideration. Let’s continue to work together towards these common community goals and expend our energies toward programs that truly contribute to the health and wellness of our citizens.