Urgent-care on the move

Published 9:11 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Vidant Urgent Care-Washington, formerly Inner Banks Urgent Care, is scheduled to close its doors in August. Its medical professionals will relocate to other medical practices in the county. (WDN Photo/Sara Cowell)

Cook to continue to see “all comers” at new location

The closure of a popular provider of urgent care to patients in the Washington area has been delayed as health-care officials work to coordinate better urgent care for area residents, Vidant Health officials said.

Effective August, Vidant Urgent Care-Washington, formerly Inner Banks Urgent Care, will close. Its medical professionals will join other medical practices in the county as those practices convert to patient-centered medical homes, according to the announcement made this week by Pam Shadle, public information officer for Vidant Beaufort Hospital.

The practice is headed by Dr. Elisabeth Cook, of Washington, who had worked in the then-Beaufort County Hospital Emergency Department for 27 years before moving to the urgent-care practice.

At their new locations, Cook and the other medical professionals affiliated with the urgent-care practice will continue to see those who need urgent medical attention, Shadle said.

Meanwhile, Vidant Urgent Care will be open to patients 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at its current location at 608 E. 12th St. until it closes Aug. 3, Shadle said.

Vidant Health originally announced the practice would close in June.

That announcement prompted a series of telephone calls and letters to the Washington Daily News.

In August, Cook will join Vidant Internal Medicine, formerly Pamlico Internal Medicine, located at 1380 Cowell Farm Road, where she will continue to see some scheduled patients and provide immediate care and same-day appointments as she currently does at Vidant Urgent Care.

Cook, in a recent interview, said she would continue to provide urgent care to all patients, not only those who are patients at Vidant Internal Medicine.

“I will be at (Vidant) Internal Medicine, and I will be available to all comers every business day,” she said. “It will be the same as now, only a different building.”

“The move was actually engineered very carefully,” she said, adding that the delay will give medical professionals at Vidant Internal Medicine and other Vidant-affiliated practices time to implement electronic medical records in their offices.

“Very purposefully, we will be here until that process ends so that people will have some place to go for same-day appointments,” she said.

Once implemented, the electronic medical records system will combine every aspect of a patient’s medical history into a single record, housed in one database. As a result, doctors and other clinical staff members will have convenient, timely access to information through one secure system, Shadle said.

That change is part of a conversion by Vidant Internal Medicine and other local medical practices to a patient-centered medical home that will lead to expanded hours and same-day, walk-in service at the medical offices to accommodate patients, Shadle said.

Also in August, Janet Cutler, an adult nurse practitioner with Vidant Urgent Care, will join Vidant Women’s Care, formerly Washington Women’s Care, located at 1204 Brown St., to provide same-day appointments for female patients while maintaining some scheduled patient visits, Shadle said.

Anita Woolard, a family nurse practitioner with Vidant Urgent Care, will join Vidant Family Medicine-Washington, formerly Washington Family Medicine, where she will provide same-day appointments and scheduled appointments as needed in the same way she does at the urgent-care office, Shadle said.

“Our goal is to provide same-day care to everyone in the county who needs it,” said Clyde Brooks, vice president of medical affairs for Vidant Medical Group, the subsidiary of Vidant Health that oversees physician practices, in a statement announcing the new closure date.

In discussing the move, Cook said she is confident that she, Cutler and Woolard will be able to provide the same quality of care they have provided to patients at Inner Banks and Vidant Urgent Care.

“Vidant has worked very hard over the past several months will all of us to be sure the mechanics of efficient appointment-making and minimal waiting time are worked out at each practice site,” Cook said.

“Early on, I made a list of 13 things I needed to happen to make my new practice site ‘the same or better,’” she said. “Everything on my list has been addressed by Vidant.”

Cook said the move would mean that many patients would be charged lower co-payments (if required by their health insurance providers) for the care they receive.

Many health insurance policies mandate a higher patient co-payment for visits to urgent-care practices than to visits to primary-care practices.

“So, with the new arrangement in place, the lower primary-care co-payments will often apply for same-day appointments, whether a patient is attached to that practice or not,” she said.