Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include additional information about services that will be offered at the upcoming American Family Clinic in Sedalia.
While Sedalians have had multiple health care options for years, such as Bothwell Regional Health Center, Pettis County Health Center and Katy Trail Community Health, new options are beginning to pop up: urgent care clinics.
A new care option
On Jan. 9, KTCH opened CareNow, a walk-in Saturday clinic at its Sedalia location, 821 Westwood Dr., after recognizing a need in the community, said CEO Chris Stewart. Katy Trail had been talking with the City of Sedalia about possible downtown locations for an urgent care clinic when they found out Guesa USA was opening one on Broadway Boulevard, so the idea turned into CareNow.
“What we recognized is that in order to expand our model of care in the community, one of the ways we could identify patients who were not currently established with any primary care is to provide urgent care services,” Stewart explained. “So our goal around urgent care services was to identify people who don’t have a medical home, address their urgent issue and then focus on prevention and wellness with them, which is what our priorities are to begin with.
“When another urgent care was (announced), we decided to reign that back a little bit and have the same philosophy but just do it on Saturdays.”
Stewart said Katy Trail had previously hesitated in providing urgent care because its philosophy is a “medical home model,” meaning the patient has a primary care physician they rely on.
“Folks come to our health center and once they establish care at our health center they have access to all the resources we have to provide them to get healthy, including 24/7 access to a provider,” Stewart said. “If you have 24/7 access then you can call someone to find out if you need to be seen or not, and in our minds that’s a much more efficient way of assessing and delivering care. It’s not an ER visit, it might not be an office visit. If someone doesn’t have to pay for that, we think they shouldn’t pay for it.”
However, with the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, KTCH recognized just how many citizens were going without health care, so they decided an urgent care facility could be a strategy to get them into primary care.
CareNow is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and only treats acute, non-emergent cases, such as sore throat, fever, rash, ear aches, minor cuts, sprains, flu, cough and colds, nausea and vomiting, and urinary tract infections, but not something like a chronic illness.
Patients are seen on a first-come, first-serve basis and anyone can receive care, not just Katy Trail patients. So far about half of the patients seen have been Katy Trail patients.
Stewart said CareNow saw 14 patients the first day and now averages between 25 and 35 patients each Saturday, which she noted is busy for a four-hour window. As of the end of February, the most common cases seen were strep throat, colds and respiratory infections.
Another clinic coming soon
Jorge Guevara of Guesa USA announced in October 2015 that 115 W. Broadway Blvd. would become an urgent care facility, American Family Care. Guevara told the Democrat in October the facility will feature eight exam rooms, a procedure room, an X-ray room and a lab, offering urgent care, primary care and occupational health services. The site has been prepped for construction and it is expected to be completed by September.
Like Katy Trail, Guevara said Guesa chose urgent care as its next project because they saw a need in the community.
“The community has shown tremendous support so they can go get affordable health care and good quality health care, especially after hours and on the weekends,” Guevara said. “We’ll be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ll have consistent hours 365 days out of the year, which will allow patients to know where to go and what time. If someone gets sick Saturday at 4 they’ll be able to find reliable and affordable health care right around the corner.”
Appointments aren’t needed at American Family Care either, and both clinics accept most major forms of medical insurance.
Finding a medical home
Stewart said CareNow does address a request from local residents, but she thinks more needs to be done to improve health care in Sedalia, not just offering care at different hours.
“I think the community does want (urgent care), but I’m a little ambivalent about it because I think what the community really needs is medical homes, folks being engaged in primary care services that work with patients to manage their care. We don’t have enough of that,” she said. “While I know folks want urgent care, that is not primary care. It is treating acute issues and that’s it. I get that, people want care when they want care, so I’m ambivalent about it.”
Stewart noted there is a “perfect storm” of underlying issues that cause local people to not receive the care they need — sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes for lack of options.
“I think if you look at certain demographics, adult men don’t like to go to the doctor and therefore they don’t until they have a massive heart attack,” she said. “We have a lot of folks in the younger demographic that are working a couple of part-time jobs and don’t have insurance and are worried they won’t be able to afford care so that’s why Facebook is so important to us, we target those folks to let them know they can get good, low-cost care through us.
“And I don’t think we have enough primary care-givers in our county. There’s just not enough folks delivering care. I think all of the above, and our future is looking at even more shortages. It’s like the perfect storm.”
She added that she thinks AFC will be a “tremendous resource” for Sedalia and soon people will learn more about the type of health care they need.
“I think our health care system is difficult and complex, which is why we’re invested in the home model because we help navigate,” she said. “I think people will use urgent care and over time recognize what’s valuable about it and what’s not and then we’ll all just settle into it, which is a good thing. We consider it to be another partner opportunity for us, that’s always good.”
For more information about CareNow, call 826-1188. For more information about American Family Care, visit AmericanFamilyCare.com.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.