The Emergency Department, or ED, of a hospital is a critical place. Many medical emergencies are handled quickly and effectively, and at all hours. However, many people head to the ED when they don’t have a true emergency. When a person lacks a relationship with a primary caregiver, an uninsured patient needs attention, when affordable health care isn’t available, or when the inability to access year-round treatment at a clinic keeps a person from the appropriate non-emergency care, they go to the ED.
When non-emergency trips are made to the ED, it can weaken the ability of the hospital to truly attend to those in need. With long waits, crowded waiting rooms, and staff working hard to meet demands, keeping the ED reserved for emergencies is crucial.
Additionally, these ED trips can be costly to a community. One uninsured trip to the ED can generate a bill anywhere from $150 to $3,000. While it could be debated as to how those costs are absorbed, there is no doubt that they must be.
The best solution is to keep people out of the Emergency Department who don’t need to be there.
At Cape Fear Clinic, we work hard to do this by advocating a preventative approach to medical care. By helping patients get the ongoing care and attention they need, we help the Cape Fear region lighten the number of Emergency Department visitors.
One step we took in the past year to help the region engage in preventative care was an inventive and creative approach to reach more people with a vaccination program. With the help of the Wilmington Rotary Club, we were able to provide $92,000 of vaccinations with a $1,000 grant. As Dr. Jennifer Buxton reminded us, vaccinations are critical to maintaining the long-term health of our community.
At Cape Fear Clinic, we also take a multilayered approach to manage the chronic illnesses of our patients, with special attention paid to the diabetic and hypertensive populations. With routine examinations, access to providers for any questions, and a tailored plan for each patient to help keep diseases under control, we find that the emergency calls for these patients can be lessened.
We also know from our 25 years of work within the community that dental care is often overlooked but can lead to costly medical visits if not treated.
Accordingly, we offer and encourage basic oral exams, cleanings, fillings and dental health education to all of our patients. The more we can do to keep patients’ teeth healthy, the smaller the odds that they will have to visit the Emergency Department for mouth pain due to infection, impaction or extraction.
The fact is that our services are working and finding those patients who need our care. In 2014, we saw 1,439 patients at the Cape Fear Clinic. There were 5,401 appointment slots provided in medical, mental health and dental services. This was done with the help of investments from our community (for every $1 invested in Cape Fear Clinic, we were able to provide $16.14 in health care) and the 5,081 hours of volunteer work.
As our area grows at an impressive rate and the New Hanover Regional Medical Center expands its Emergency Department, it is our goal to keep our community healthy year-round and out of the ED. By continuing to offer preventative medical care to nearly 1,500 area residents, we know we are making a difference.
Cape Fear Clinic, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, was founded in 1991 as Tileston Health Clinic, Inc. and provides health care to those in our community who would otherwise be unable to access care. The clinic serves charitable patients who do not have health insurance and have incomes of no more than 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and those with Medicaid. For more information please visit capefearclinic.org or contact us at (910) 343-8736.
Cece Nunn - Mar 19, 2018
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