Urgent Care: An Important Option while Flu is Widespread in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is the sole state reporting geographically widespread flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which began tracking the 2018-2019 influenza season in October. A high number of flu cases among patients, coupled with respiratory ailments, are resulting in overflowing Emergency Departments (EDs).
South Shore Hospital is seeing many patients come to the Emergency Department with flu, and respiratory illnesses. While sometimes patient conditions are critical enough to necessitate a trip to the ED, urgent care is a very important option for them to consider as well.
Urgent care facilities help to unclog EDs, which are meant for the sickest of the sick. All too often, emergency rooms are full of patients who otherwise could have been seen by their primary care doctor or urgent care provider for common issues that aren't necessarily "emergencies."
“The best thing to do, if possible, is to call your primary care provider and determine the best place to go,” says Dr. Todd Ellerin, Director of Infectious Diseases, South Shore Hospital. “We want to see the sickest patients with influenza here. But patients with milder symptoms; we want them to consider going elsewhere for their care.”
Patients should feel comfortable seeking treatment at an urgent care facility which provide quality care close to home. Many urgent care doctors have worked in their own practice or emergency rooms before moving to urgent care.
Perhaps one of the main benefits of urgent care is the fact that it’s so easily accessible. The recent partnership between South Shore Health and Health Express, for example, created six new urgent care centers between Quincy and Plymouth. Health Express provides high quality medical care from an ED trained doctor that is both fast and convenient.
Patients will more than likely receive care faster by going to an urgent care clinic instead of the ED. The average visit at urgent care lasts under an hour, whereas ED wait times can be an hour or more, not including treatment.
It’s also important to note that it’s not too late for patients to get a flu shot! The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.
Check out this helpful guide on where to seek care for the flu. To learn more about South Shore Health's urgent care offerings, click here.