Where do you go in the Alexandria area when you need medical help?Your throat aches and you have a fever. You have a rash on your arm. Your toddler is screaming and holding his ear. You fell down and now you can’t move your wrist. You know it’s not an emergency but you should probably see a doctor. You don’t have an appointment. You are from out of town and you don’t have a doctor in Alexandria. What do you do?
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Your throat aches and you have a fever. You have a rash on your arm. Your toddler is screaming and holding his ear. You fell down and now you can’t move your wrist.
You know it’s not an emergency but you should probably see a doctor. You don’t have an appointment. You are from out of town and you don’t have a doctor in Alexandria. What do you do?
Do you have to go to the emergency room or can you go to a local clinic without an appointment?
Though it goes by different names, both the Alexandria Clinic and Broadway Medical Center (BMC) in Alexandria provide services to residents and out-of-towners alike that eliminate the need for an emergency room (ER) visit.
The Alexandria Clinic refers to their program as express care. According to Dr. Susan Paulson, director of express care and president-elect of the clinic, the same-day medical care is for those who have illnesses or injuries that are not life-threatening but require prompt attention.
“Express care is for patients who need to be seen on a non-emergency basis for a number of things,” she said. “Sore throats, coughs, earaches, minor fractures, sprains, strains, burns, injuries of any kind.”
Express care is available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday; Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. During regular office hours, and after-hours on weekdays, there is a board certified family physician available for express care, along with either a nurse practitioner or another family doctor. On Saturdays, there are three providers on staff.
In addition, each family care physician at the clinic has time slots reserved for patients who call in, so they are able to see their regular family doctor.
While express care does accept walk-in patients, Paulson encourages calling first. That way, if appointments are open, the patient can be given a specific time slot.
“Express care is essentially urgent care with the option of scheduling appointments,” Paulson explained. “That way, if someone calls ahead, we can triage them to the appropriate place to be seen. If possible, we ask people to call ahead to avoid large numbers of patients sitting in the waiting room. It makes it more convenient so they can get in and out of here rapidly.”
Health care by any other name is just as convenient. Broadway Medical Center offers the same options as the Alexandria Clinic, but it is referred to as same-day appointments.
“There’s a lot of verbiage out there. Walk-in clinics, same-day appointments, extended hours, express care,” said Daniel Jones, administrator. “It’s all to let patients know that a physician is available to see them on short notice for non-life-threatening things. It’s that middle step between a doctor appointment and the emergency room.”
Part of the family medicine department, same-day appointments are available Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
Like the Alexandria Clinic, family practice physicians at BMC all have a portion of their schedule left open each day for same-day appointments. In addition, there is one “on-call” physician who is available to take the overflow and the walk-ins who require a doctor visit that day. A nurse practitioner or physician assistant is also there for same-day appointments.
“Nowadays, everyone wants their pizza in 30 minutes, in every industry. Medical is no exception,” Jones added. “It’s all part of customer service. You do what you can to get them in.”
Will it cost an
arm and a leg?
If you’re worried about the cost, you can breathe a little easier. Visiting express care at the Alexandria Clinic or having a same-day or walk-in appointment at BMC is not going to cost an arm and a leg.
Both medical facilities charge the same as they do for a regular, scheduled-in-advance office visit.
“There is no extra charge,” Jones said. “It’s normal, everyday operations here.”
What won’t they see?
Both clinics aim to take care of those in need – appointment or not. But what is classified as a “need?”
“Sniffles, sneezes, sore throats, injuries, ear infections and the like. Bumps, bruises, cuts, broken bones. We see all of those,” Jones said. “The caveat is that anything serious or life-threatening, they should go to the ER.”
According to Paulson, illnesses that necessitate a visit to the ER include chest pain, major fractures, trouble breathing, symptoms of stroke, paralysis, blindness, severe head injuries, suicidal behavior and rape. ER care at the Douglas County Hospital is available 24 hours a day.
There are also procedures for which both the Alexandria Clinic and BMC require advance appointments. They include routine immunizations, physicals, sports physicals, pre-op checks and preventive care.
If in doubt, a phone call to either clinic will steer patients in the right direction and ensure they get the best care possible.