Cottage Health announced Tuesday that it is opening 10 urgent care clinics in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties this year, with the first one located in Goleta’s Hollister Village shopping center.
These centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day to see patients who have minor injuries and illnesses, such as a sore throat, earache, fever, minor laceration or minor fracture.
“It was really devised because we hear over and over again, in this county and the rest of the Tri-Counties, that access to primary care is very difficult for patients,” said Dr. Edmund Wroblewski, Cottage Health’s chief medical officer.
Cottage Health sees these clinics as a way to see patients quickly for minor medical problems, and refer them to a primary care physician if they come in with chronic issues that need follow-ups.
The services are similar to other urgent care centers, but medical care at these facilities will be provided by licensed nurse practitioners, Wroblewski said.
They will have some on-site X-ray and lab services, as well some medications.
“Limiting the scope does two things: It limits cases to ones that can be seen in a timely manner, and limits the ones more appropriate for an emergency room or physician office,” he said.
Cottage Health also sees the urgent care clinics as a way to reduce visits to its emergency rooms at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital.
“Some patients go to the emergency room with a sore throat, and that really does tie up a physician and nurses and lab testing for something that can be done very easily as an outpatient,” Wroblewski said.
“Again, we’re here to take care of minor problems and appropriately refer them to their established primary care physician or try to establish care with a physician in the area,” he said, adding that Cottage is developing lists of local doctors willing to take on new patients.
There will be two urgent care centers opened in Santa Barbara, two in Santa Maria, and more in Buellton, San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Camarillo, he said.
All locations will be in storefronts with easy parking and high visibility, not necessarily located near hospitals or other medical facilities.
The centers will take walk-ins, and patients can make appointments online to reserve a spot for the day, Cottage Health spokesman Bob Behbehanian said. The goal is to get patients in and out in 30 minutes, he said.
Cottage Health’s urgent care centers will accept Medi-Cal, MediCare and some private insurance policies, and there will be a self-pay program for people without health insurance.
Santa Barbara County has a variety of urgent care and after-hours care options available now, including Sansum Clinic’s large Santa Barbara Urgent Care at its Pesetas Lane offices, which is staffed by physicians, and several MedCenters in Santa Barbara and Goleta.
The Lompoc Valley Medical Center recently purchased Sansum Clinic’s Lompoc medical facility and the building includes an urgent care, which is open every day at 1225 North H St.
Dignity Health, which owns Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, has five urgent care facilities in Atascadero, Pismo Beach, Santa Maria, Orcutt and Lompoc.
CenCal Health, the Medi-Cal administrator for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, has a list of after-hours care facilities on its website for members.
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