Immediate, not emergency

Published 7:11 pm Friday, December 2, 2016

In June, Vidant Health opened a 24-hour multispecialty clinic in Belhaven, a project that cost $6 million.

The clinic brought the town’s practicing physicians together under one roof and added a variety of medical resources. The state-of-the-art facility offers primary care, physical therapy, consults for cardiac patients, prenatal care, lab work, ultrasounds and X-rays, as well as the ability to immediately treat symptoms related to allergies, the flu, rashes and sprains, to name a few.

Vidant made the right choice when investing this money in the town of Belhaven. This area has an aging population and is in need of medical care.

However, a problem has arisen. With all the controversy over the closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital in 2014, and attempts to spread the word about the multispecialty clinic, confusion developed among some residents.

The clinic is not an emergency room. It has the ability to give immediate care, but that is not the same as emergency care. Some residents have misinterpreted the clinic’s function, and in times of emergency, have gone to the clinic instead of calling 911.

If one has a medical concern that would usually require a primary care doctor, or one that would involve making an appointment, the multispecialty clinic is the place to go. There are talented physicians and medical personnel working there who can help.

However, if there is an emergency medical concern, such as symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, a life-or-death situation that must be addressed as soon as possible, call 911. Beaufort County EMS is on call 24 hours a day to assist with emergencies and provide top-notch, life-saving care, whether at the scene or on the way to the hospital.

If one goes to the clinic for help, precious minutes are wasted, and the personnel there will likely recommend calling 911. Paramedics have been trained to stabilize a patient before transport to a hospital, and the sooner they get to a patient, the better chance that patient has. That’s the new, countywide model of rural health care.

This doesn’t mean the multispecialty clinic isn’t a valuable resource, or that there isn’t good care provided there. It just means that residents should be aware of the difference between immediate and emergency care — whether to call the clinic or to call 911.