The Debate on Westchester Walk-in Medical-Care
They’re fast and convenient, but are urgent-care centers good for our healthcare system?
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Then there’s the problem of physician access. “Just because you have primary-care physicians practicing,” says Jean Moore, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the School of Public Health at SUNY Albany, “it doesn’t mean they are available to everyone in the community. In Westchester, you’re not likely to find geographic shortages, but, for people who don’t have insurance or are on Medicare or Medicaid, some of them don’t have much choice other than to go to the emergency room for their primary care.”
Lee, however, believes it is disingenuous to say that the rise of walk-in care is due to a shortage of primary-care physicians, since physicians staff the urgent-care centers as well: “You’re just shifting them to another location.”
Regardless, consumers really like the convenience of walk-in medicine. Vera Luthra, who manages Urgent Care of Westchester, says the message has been spreading since she and her husband, Jay Luthra, MD, an ER physician in the Bronx, opened their first center nine years ago. They now have eight in the NewYork metro area, including one in Tarrytown, and hope to open two or three more in the very near future. “The most important message is that we are open seven days a week,” she says. “People like the fact that they can just walk in any time.” You can do that at an emergency room, too, she points out, “but the environment [at Urgent Care of Westchester] is much less scary. You won’t see some guy next to you with a gunshot wound.”
Sussman says half of CVS MinuteClinic patients come in on weekends or evenings. In addition, he says, “about half of our patients don’t have a personal physician, so we give them a list of doctors in their area who are accepting new patients.”
Urgent care is usually less expensive care, too, at least as compared to emergency-room services. As Hayworth explains, “Patients like the fact that the copay to go to urgent care is, in many cases, a lot less than for the emergency room.” Obviously, insurance companies also like the lower charges.