Urgent care centers are not equal to ERs

August 11, 2011

In response to the coverage of a new health care facility in Columbia ("Patient First to open Columbia medical center," Aug. 5), it should be noted that urgent care centers are not equal alternatives to emergency rooms.

They are options for common medical problems when a physician's office is closed or unable to provide an appointment. The fact is, the vast majority people seeking emergency care need to be there. Only 8 percent of patients are non-urgent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and non-urgent "doesn't mean unnecessary" by the government's definition. Often, urgent care physicians will refer their patients to the ER for additional treatment.

Hospital emergency departments are prepared for every kind of medical emergency, and emergency care is less than 2 percent of the nation's health care dollar. They are staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year by physicians with specialized training in emergency medicine.

If you have a serious illness or injury, you should go to the closest emergency department. Urgent care is for minor problems. Going there for an emergency will only delay your care.

Dr. Sandra Schneider, Rochester, N.Y.

The writer is president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.