After-hours and urgent care clinics vs. family practitioners and emergency rooms — technically they may be in competition with one another, but most ER physicians and nurses as well as family practitioners agree that after-hours and urgent care clinics are seen as more of a partner than as competition.
MEA Medical Clinics sees approximately 240,000 patients per year. Wayne Whitley, COO of MEA Medical Clinics, believes these patients would end up in the ER or perhaps even without care altogether if MEA were not there. MEA offers after-hours as well as a primary care.
“We don’t treat people who should be in the ER or the hospital,” Whitley said. “But we do treat those people who can walk in and walk out.”
On average, patients of MEA Medical Clinics spend about $80 to be seen by physicians there. In the ER that price can be as much as $400 or more for minor problems.
Dr. William Howard, chairman of the board for MEA Medical Clinics, considers MEAs to be friends of family physicians.
“If I get a patient in who can’t get an appointment with their regular doctor and they have something like pneumonia, I’ll call their doctor and tell them I have so and so over here and she has pneumonia and has to go to the hospital,” Howard said. “So in essence I’m his de facto partner. I’m helping these guys out. We take their overflow and we do a good job.”
Howard, who worked as an ER physician for some time after he finished his residency, said he is happy that MEAs are able to assist ER physicians with their cases.
“I’ve seen both sides,” he said. “The ER costs four times as much, the aggravation is worse and you have no continuity. The ER doctors do a great job but this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Sharon Meadows, CEO of Mediquik in Grenada, another after-hours clinic, said the reason she and her husband, Dr. David Meadows, opened their after-hours medical clinic in Grenada was because of the community need. David Meadows worked in the ER at Grenada Lake Medical Center for some time before he and his wife opened Mediquik in 1999.
“The ER was always filled with clinic patients,” Sharon Meadows said. “People always brought their kids in after hours.”
Factory workers who worked the night shift were also frequent visitors to the ER.
“One complements the other,” Meadows said of the ER and Mediquik. “The ER needs to be primary trauma and not colds and sore throats you’ve had for a week. And we don’t offer CTs or mammograms here. We send people to the ER and they send people to us. We have a mutual agreement here and that works well.”
Mediquik serves about 25 to 40 and sometimes as many as 60 patients each day. The clinic is open from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“We see more people in that time frame than most people do from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Meadows said.
Some ER’s do compete with after-hours clinics, however, such as the one at Baptist Health Systems. At Baptist, the ER actually has a Baptist ExpressCare Clinic, which sees an average of about 1,700 patients per month.
“In ExpressCare we see minor medical-type things — colds, sore throats, sprained ankles, rashes — nothing emergent,” said Robert Ware, a registered nurse and director of the ER at Baptist Medical Center. “So to some degree, they (after-hours clinics) are our competitors.”
Dr. Bard Johnston, who runs Madison Family Medical Clinic, said even though the after-hours clinics do compete with his clinic, he does not really see them as competition.
“It’s more of a partnership of two different types of medical clinics working together to meet the needs of the medical community,” Johnston said. “They basically offer extended hour clinics and a few weekend hours, whereas I don’t. So if a patient of mine cuts their finger, I’ll actually send them to an MEA if I’m paged on a Saturday.”
But when it comes to chronic medical problems, a family doctor could be more helpful than the acute after-hours clinics, Johnston said.
“It’s a very healthy type of competition, but more so than anything these after-hours clinics are a value to me because of the fact that they see patients during the extended hours that I don’t work. I have a good rapport with after-hours clinic physicians. We have a mutual respect for one another. We basically help each other out. I think those clinics definitely serve a purpose.”
In the future, Mississippians should expect to see more after-hours clinics. MEA already operates clinics in Laurel, Pearl, Clinton, Castlewoods, Byram, Madison, Richland, Ridgeland and on Ellis Avenue and Old Canton Road in Jackson. Another MEA Medical Clinic will soon open just south of Canton on Nissan Boulevard, and the company is planning to open one every year after that. In Grenada, the Meadows have plans to open a second Mediquik and eventually start a franchise with it.
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.