The urgent care center at South Lincoln Medical Center opened on Tuesday, Sept. 4. The hours are Monday to Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Theresa Davis)
The new urgent care at South Lincoln Medical Center opened on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and hospital CEO Karl Sundberg thinks it will be a great way to increase the level of health care for the community.
“Patient costs go up significantly when you have to go to the emergency room for something that could easily be taken care of in urgent care,” Sundberg said. “That's one of the reasons we decided to open an urgent care center.”
Sundberg, who took over as CEO in January, said the new urgent care should help patients receive the right level of health care at the right cost.
“Health care is undergoing a transformation across the nation,” Sundberg said. “Our hospital revenue likely won’t increase because of the urgent care, but it will be better for patients.”
Sundberg explained the difference between the urgent care and the emergency room.
“Visits to the ER should be for something life-threatening, like a situation where you would probably need to call 911,” Sundberg said. “Urgent care is for immediate care that can't wait for an appointment at the clinic, but isn't life threatening.”
Sundberg said SLMC published a Facebook post advising patients how to choose between the urgent care and an emergency room visit.
Some of the injuries and ailments for which patients are encouraged to visit the urgent care center include animal bites, earaches, a bad cold or flu, cuts that need stitches, nausea and vomiting, sprains and minor burns.
“We hired two more physician assistants to help staff the urgent care center,” Sundberg said. “We will also be relying on employees that are already working for EMS.”
Sundberg said it is not unsual to have paramedics and EMT staff working in urgent care clinics.
“They are trained in a broad scope of emergency medicine,” Sundberg said. “It gives inter-level EMTs a place to keep their skills up, and provides them with full-time work.”
Sundberg said he thinks this increased cooperation with the EMT staff and the urgent care clinic will raise the quality of health care provided by the hospital.
“There will also be an on-call physician in the urgent care with the new PAs,” Sundberg said. “It's not as widely known that people can walk in and see a physician at the clinic, so I think this will help with that.”
Sundberg said the urgent care environment is beneficial in a small community when appointments at the regular clinic can fill up fast.
The SLMC CEO said the idea of an urgent care center in Kemmerer has been in the works for a while, and he is excited to be a part of the project.
Prior to coming to Kemmerer, Sundberg was a medic in the Air Force. He also served as VP of Operations with Advanced Physician Solutions in Florence, Alabama; Director of Operations at ABQ Health Partners in Albuquerque; and Director of Ambulatory Services with Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Most recently Sundberg was the COO of Nevada Health Centers, where he developed and oversaw 18 health centers and seven WIC centers statewide.
“Before I became CEO here, there were some talks about an urgent care, but the big question we were getting from employees and the community is ‘why should we do this,’” Sundberg said.
“I took a few months to assess the needs of the community,” Sundberg continued. “We spent time talking with employees and looking at our data, and we decided to go forth with hte urgent care project.”
South Lincoln Medical Center employees help prepare for the urgent care center opening. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Theresa Davis)
The renovations have been underway for about three months.
The new urgent care center is located in what was previously the hospital's physical therapy center. The physical therapy center moved to the space that used to be the hospital gift shop.
Sundberg said the total cost for the project was $35,000, which included renovating the gift shop to become the physical therapy center, transforming the old physical therapy center into the urgent care, and purchasing new equipment.
“It's a relatively low cost when you look at all the updates we made," Sundberg said. “We did a lot of the work ourselves, which really saved on money. We have an amazing facility and maintenance staff.”
“We already had a perfect space for urgent care right here," Sundberg said. “All things considered, it won’t be a huge hit money-wise to the hospital, and the hope is that we get an increase in patients to offset cost. We worked hard to budget for this project.”
South Lincoln Medical Center and the Kemmerer-Diamondville Area Chamber of Commerce are hosting a grand opening and open house for the Urgent Care on Friday, Sept. 21, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
“I'm really excited about the urgent care,” Sundberg said. “I hope that the increased access makes the public feel comfortable and feel like they have excellent care.”
The hours of the new urgent care center are Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.