The Gadsden County Board of Commissioners were clear when they told staff they didn't want the Urgent Care Center to close after Tallahassee Memorial Hospital pulled out last week. County administrator Johnny Williams and his staff came up with a solution that is working and could also save the county money.
Two months ago, thinking that the hospital and emergency room would be ready for occupancy and losing about $5,000 per month at the Urgent Care Center, commissioners voted to close the center as of June 21, the hospital's scheduled reopening date.
When it became clear that the hospital and emergency room were not going to open by the target date, commissioners needed to find a solution to provide health care services for residents. The solution was a partnership of sorts between North Florida Medical Center and Emergency Medical Services. The two would work together to make sure the county’s medical needs were covered.
North Florida Medical Services will see any Urgent Care Center patients at their office (behind the hospital) between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m at no extra charge. At 4 p.m. the county's Emergency Medical Services takes over and sees patients at the Urgent Care Center in the north wing of the hospital until 10 p.m., Monday through Friday.
"The important thing is that we have some type of health care for our citizens. Our patients have been positive about the service," said Brian Beasely, EMS director.
During the first full week, Beasley said between a 10 and 12 patients came through the center each night.
The center is staffed with part-time EMS medical staff. Dr. Chookiert Emko, who has been at the center since it opened, is at the center five nights a week. Billing is being handled by the EMS staff. Beasley has a stack of files that are ready for billing as soon as the software is delivered. Collections, he said, are already running ahead of previous collections.
Beasley's calculations show that the county, with the current structure until the hospital opens, will save $220,841 per year by operating the center with EMS personnel five days per week. A savings of $87,433 could be realized if the center operated seven days per week. The biggest savings will be in salaries because EMS staff members are already county employees and will not require payment of an additional benefits and the monthly $7,000 that was paid to TMH.
“We're not the hospital but if the residents need us, we want them to stop here. We've got great equipment and professional medical staff they know and trust," Beasley said.