The community response to Madras Medical Group's new urgent care service has been positive.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Weekdays and Saturdays, MMG offers walk-in urgent care to anyone in need of care at a much lower cost than going to the emergency room.The community response to Madras Medical Group's new urgent care service has been positive, according to MMG administrator Bob Jones.

"It's been well received. We are the only ones in the community doing it, and who stepped up to try to address the issue," Jones said of the problem of people going to the hospital emergency room for nonemergency issues.

MMG began offering urgent care on Nov. 6, as the result of feedback from the community and St. Charles Health Care System. The feedback noted that additional physician availability within the community could help cut down on emergency room visits.

Emergency rooms were also being overwhelmed. "At the St. Charles ER, they were having extended wait times of several hours for people waiting to be seen for things like colds and sore throats," Jones said.

He said MMG had been open on Saturdays with one physician for 40 years, but people didn't seem to know that.

Urgent care provides medical care for walk-in, or same day appointment patients. It is offered weekdays from 2-6 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and staffed by one of MMG's providers on a rotating basis.

The service can treat issues from sore throats, high fevers, and urinary tract infections to cuts, and broken arms or legs. Urgent care, however, does not by law, renew or refill pain medications. If patients need follow-up care, they are referred back to their primary care doctor.

"It's for problems that if untreated could get worse," Jones said, adding, "Many folks want to be seen right now when they are sick."

Over the years, the longtime doctors and providers at MMG have established a regular patient clientele, so it could be two weeks before a new patient could be seen.

"With urgent care, people are seen quicker. It may not be their regular physician, but at least they can be seen," Jones said.

The urgency care clinics are open to everyone, even if their primary physician is at Mosaic Medical, or another clinic. For Oregon Health Plan, Jones said they have worked out an agreement where the OHP insurance will pay, even though the MMG provider is not their primary care doctor.

People have been taking advantage of the new service. "Now, 84 percent of our available urgent care capacity is being used. The weekday times are filling up, and oddly the least amount of patients are seen on Saturdays," Jones said.

"This is a grand experiment for us. If the urgent care is highly used, we will look at adding capacity and possibly doing it every day of the week," Jones said.

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