Don’t have health care? Missed the Affordable Care Act’s sign-up deadline? Can you get to First Hill? You’ll be okay. The Country Doctor After-Hours Clinic, which opened in December 2013, asked The Capitol Hill Times to remind you that it extends care to everyone, regardless of coverage or ability to pay. And, it’s open late.
The After-Hours Clinic, which is in partnership with Swedish Medical Group, and is conveniently located next to the Swedish Cherry Hill Campus emergency room, is open seven days per week (Monday to Friday from 6 to 10 p.m., and weekends from noon to 10 p.m.), and accepts walk-ins on a first-come, first-serve basis. It’s for those who have no primary care provider, or who can’t wait for regular business hours to address an ailment.
Examples of urgent needs that the After-Hours Clinic regularly addresses are sore throats, earaches, high fevers, rashes, urinary tract infections, persistent coughs, respiratory complications like asthma, allergies, sprains or fractures, and cuts that might need stitches. If it turns out that a patient’s condition is more serious, they will be brought to the Swedish emergency room just steps away.
Country Doctor Community Health Centers Executive Director Linda McVeigh said that if it’s not an emergency, the savings of going to an after-hours clinic instead of an emergency room could be tens of thousands of dollars.
“Medical billing really varies depending on how long you’re seen and what else, and especially for an emergency room visit, it would depend upon if you needed an x-ray, or a cat scan, so it varies,” McVeigh said.
All forms of health insurance are accepted by the clinic, including Medicaid and Medicare, while uninsured patients will be charged on a sliding scale that’s based on family size and income. Because the After-Hours Clinic is a federal grantee, it is required to give care, even if patients can’t afford it. Patients aren’t even required to provide a credit card up front (or at all), just an address.
Another perk of the After-Hours Clinic is that is offers translation services for most languages.
“Because we don’t accept appointments, it’s impossible to schedule an interpreter in advance, so we use a video interpreting system,” McVeigh said, noting that this is common practice in most hospitals today. The 20 most-used languages have translators ready over a system that’s like Skype, and another 300 languages connect patients with an interpreter by phone.
“Our most common language that we interpret at the clinic is Spanish, of course, and we have multiple staff who are bilingual, Spanish speakers, but the other languages that we use a lot are Arabic, Somali, Cantonese, and Russian.”
While the After-Hours Clinic is an asset to people who need care on an evening or weekend, McVeigh stressed that it’s no replacement for a “health care home.” She said that studies show that people who have primary health care providers have better health outcomes since those providers will get to know and track their patients’ health over time. For that reason, the clinic will give their patients information about where to establish primary care, or forward information about their visit at the After-Hours Clinic to their primary care provider.
“We are proud to provide this needed service to our community where [we] also live and work,” McVeigh said. “We hope more people will discover us and take advantage of this great resource.”
For more information visit www.countrydoctor.org/after-hours-clinic. Country Doctor Community Health Center After-Hours Clinic is located at 550 16th Avenue, and can be reach by phone at 206-320-5556.