Tonawanda News — Every day, people in Western New York face the challenge of just what to do about that possible broken bone or cut that needs stitches at 8 p.m. on a Thursday. Or perhaps a fever that just won’t go away Saturday morning.
Do you wait it out until you can see your doctor the next weekday morning? Or do you sit in a waiting room — perhaps for hours — and pay a large bill at an emergency room for a medical concern that’s maybe not that serious?
Urgent care centers have been popping up across the region the last several years to bridge that gap in medical care, providing a lower-cost, efficient alternative to primary care physicians and busy emergency departments, something that may become even more necessary when the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect. But some doctors worry patients may not be using urgent care facilities for their intended purpose.
Not all urgent care centers are created equal
There’s one thing many urgent care workers, emergency room doctors and family physicians can agree on, it’s that urgent care centers are often a quicker alternative to a visit to a doctor’s office or emergency room.
Of the four urgent care centers interviewed for this article — Express Medical Care of WNY, Pediatric & Adolescent Urgent Care of Western New York, MASH Urgent Care and WNY Immediate Care — all accept walk-in appointments and are open for hours beyond traditional family doctors’ practices.
It may be difficult to get a last-minute appointment with a primary care physician on the same day, and patients may sometimes have to see another doctor or physician’s assistant at the same practice instead of their regular doctor. Emergency room waits can draw on for hours, especially if a patient’s injury or illness is less serious than those who come in with life-threatening problems.