Wellstar hopes new urgent care alleviates volume at ER

Published 7:34 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Wellstar is continuing to adapt to meet the needs of the Troup County community — and surrounding counties — by opening new clinics that will alleviate some of the bottleneck in the hospital’s emergency room.

A new urgent care facility is planned to open in the new Publix-centered shopping center on Vernon Street, right across from Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center.

“We’re still finalizing some of the layout and design, but we would anticipate that opening first half of 2025,” Foss said.

As LaGrange and Troup County continue to grow, WGMC continues to see higher volumes in its emergency room.

“Because of the growth of LaGrange and Troup County, our volumes are like we’ve never seen them before on a consistent basis,” Foss said. “We’ve seen them higher in peaks, but sustaining the level we are at is incredible. It used to be kind of a rare thing for us to get much above 150 or 160 patients in the ER. There are many days where we are well above that.”

Foss said in many instances, a patient who goes to the emergency room isn’t sick enough to need emergency room care, which can cause longer wait times and costs the patient more money. The new urgent care facility will help with that.

“Lower acuity patients probably comprise about, I’m gonna say 50% of our patients that we come to the ER,” Foss said. “Certainly, they’re always welcome to come to the emergency room, but that will save them some money … The reality is, if we have it across the street, if they need to get over to the ER, we can get them over here quickly if they’re sicker than they realize.”

Foss said the new urgent care facility could alleviate up to 20 to 25 percent of the emergency room traffic.

The other need for the new facility is that many people in their 30s and 40s no longer have a primary care physician. Instead, they just quickly make an appointment at an urgent care facility for any medical needs.

“They use urgent care as their primary care physicians,” Foss said. “And it’s just an easier process. And so WellStar recognizes that and that is a process that we are embracing as well, too. We still encourage people to get a primary care physician. We think it’s the better way, especially if you have any sort of chronic conditions to be managed, but [the new facility] will afford us the opportunity to have better access to care for all patients.”

Wellstar is also working to expand its services into the Calumet Park neighborhood, with outpatient rehab, primary care physician offices and a medical labratory opening in the old American Home Shield building by late spring or early summer.

“Some of our primary care physicians may be relocated over there,” Foss said, also noting that they are still recruiting new physicians as well.

Wellstar is also continuing to work with the Troup County School System and the Callaway Foundation on a pediatric clinic that is planned for West Point Elementary School. A similar clinic also operates at Callaway Middle School.

“We feel like there are a lot of kids over there that are undiagnosed, with some acute and maybe even some chronic conditions,” Foss said. “It’s not always easy for parents to get off work, especially for some of your folks who may not have had as easy as access to the care. And so this allows us to have an onsite school clinic staff.”

Plans for the clinic are still being finalized, though they were recently approved by the Troup County School Board.