VERO BEACH — Looking to expand its reach in Indian River County, the Indian River Medical Center in Vero Beach is branching out to provide urgent care in Pointe West and Sebastian.
“The patients are looking for something quick,” said Sharon Wolfe, director of emergency services and diagnostic imaging at the hospital.
Wolfe said there is a continued emphasis on improving wait times at the emergency room and the urgent care centers could help to relieve some of the pressure on emergency personnel. Hospital officials expect between 70 and 75 patients to use the urgent care centers daily once they are established. However, they believe the centers will see an average of 20 to 30 patients daily at the outset.
“There is a need to help with overflow,” Wolfe said of providing medical treatment.
The satellite facilities, which are scheduled to open in January and March, will provide a number of services currently found at the hospital. Such treatments will include EKGs, flu shots and immunizations, lab work and X-rays.
The Sebastian center, located at 801 Wellness Way, will be the first to open, in January, and will have eight patient care rooms and an outpatient lab, full radiology lab and a couple suites for physicians.
The center would help cut the drive time needed for north county residents to get to IRMC in Vero Beach for routine blood work, breathing treatments and other services they regularly receive from the hospital, according to Wolfe.
The Pointe West facility, located at 1960 Pointe West Drive west of Vero Beach, is expected to open in March. It will offer physical therapy treatment and a shorter drive for west county residents.
The facilities would also serve as an alternative to family doctors’ offices when appointments are difficult to come by for emergencies such as the flu, officials said.
Wolfe and Betsy Whisman, a spokeswoman for Indian River Medical Center, said their first preference is for patients to try to see their family doctor before choosing the urgent care center or the emergency room.
“We’re never looking to take away or compete” with primary care physicians, Wolfe said.
However, many patients cannot get into their family doctor as quickly as they need due to sudden illness or injury, she said.
Along with providing immediate medical treatment, the urgent care centers can also serve as a link to the Indian River Medical Center, according to Wolfe.
Patients who need follow up treatment at the hospital or other hospital-only services can have those appointment scheduled through the urgent care facility.
“It makes it easier” to follow up with patients, Wolfe said. The hospital and centers will operate on the same medical data handling system, allowing center staff to access hospital schedules.
The urgent care centers’ hours are currently scheduled for 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
However, Whisman said they are willing to adjust their hours based on patient and community feedback.
The facilities will also accepts the same insurance plans the hospital takes, including Medicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna and the like. Indian River Medical Center has a complete list of approved insurance providers on its Web site, www.irmc.cc.