Patients Turn to Urgent Care for Lack of Local Primary Care Docs

Today I covered the open house for Harrison Medical Center’s new 24/7 urgent care facility. The 36,000-square-foot medical building will open Thursday, expanding urgent care services in South Kitsap from 16 hours per day to 24. The building, which connects to the 32,000-square-foot medical center built in 1995, also includes a state of the art imaging center, doctor’s offices and a host of outpatient medical services.

According to Dr. Robert Rankin, the urgent care center’s director, the need for urgent care is increasing not only due to increased population, but because of a shortage of primary care doctors in Kitsap County as nationwide.

Specialists can make two to three times more than primary care doctors, who are also burdened by regulations that make their jobs far more complicated, Rankin said. The net result, he said, is a lack of family care doctors.

With fewer primary care doctors, more and more people are relying on urgent care for basic medical needs, and they’re going to emergency rooms, when urgent care would suffice.

From my perspective (my primary care doc just folded shop for unstated reasons), the lack of family practitioners means a Catch-22 for patients who need a referral to specialists in order to qualify for insurance coverage of a medical issue.

The doctor shortage makes delivery of care inefficient and unnecessarily costly. People without a family doctor wait to seek care until they’re “really” sick, making treatment more complicated. A visit to the ER also costs more (way more) than an office visit. But now patients don’t have to wait. The cost of treatment at an urgent care is comparable to an office visit at a doctor’s office, Rankin said.

Harrison’s Port Orchard campus is located at 450 South Kitsap Boulevard, east of Highway 16 at the Tremont Street exit. Harrison Urgent Care will begin serving patients on a 24/7 basis at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. For more information, visit Harrison’s Web site at
www.harrisonhospital.org.

Update 1/14: This posting has been amended to add the link to the story/video.

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