Over the last several years, many communities across the United States have found that urgent care centers are an extremely beneficial addition to their local healthcare services. The average urgent care center has extended hours and is open seven days a week, making them a convenient place to receive treatment for non-life-threatening conditions. Because of this, many urgent care clinics report that they treat anywhere from 300 to 400 patients a week, helping to decrease patient volume at local doctors offices and emergency rooms. Now, an emergency walk in clinic in Birmingham, AL is considering adding services to their repertoire to better serve their community.
In January 2013, the Jefferson County Commission controversially replaced the Cooper Green Hospital with an urgent care facility. Since then, the emergency walk in clinic has operated seven days a week from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. The center already offers treatment for a variety of ailments, but in a committee meeting on January 6, an administrator with Cooper Green Health announced that the clinic plans to add mental health services to that list. The interim director, Roger McCullough, told the Commission that this responsibility would fill “a huge need for our population and also a tremendous void in the community.”
However, the planned addition of mental health services was only one of several changes suggested for Cooper Green’s emergency walk in clinic: McCullough also proposed that the clinic close on weekends starting March 7. The proposal was reportedly due to the unusually low number of patients the center treats on weekends, as well as the existence of several other emergency rooms in the area. McCullough said that weekends came at a cost to the hospital and local taxpayers, as the number of patients could not justify the expense of paying staff members and running other operations.
The Jefferson County Commission requires a majority to approve changes to the emergency walk in clinic, especially changes as significant as closing the facility on weekend. Ultimately, it seems more likely that the committee will approve the added mental health services than the weekend closure: the group’s president has already commented that he wants to ensure a facility is open to treat indigent community members at all times.
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