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February 26, 2001

Grady's Urgent Care Center
helps underserved

By Alicia Sands Lurry

Doctors who work in the Urgent Care Center (UCC) at Grady Hospital see thousands of patients every year, and for many of those patients, UCC is their primary care provider.

This is because many of the patients the doctors see are indigent and working poor.

“The [UCC] is where we frequently see the working poor who cannot afford health insurance,” said Charles Harper, assistant professor of medicine and UCC director.

In a collaborative effort with physicians from both Emory and Morehouse schools of medicine and the Grady staff, UCC serves as a front door to the Grady Health Care System.
Harper estimates that 74 percent of the patients who come to UCC are indigent and working poor, while 16 percent receive Medicare and Medicaid. Just 10 percent are full-paying patients.

Many visit the center with acute health care problems such as back pain and headache; some come for treatment of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. Still others come for preventative care that includes vaccinations and pap smears. Most of the patients are between 18 and 50 years old.

“We’re talking about the cooks from various fast food restaurants and people who clean hotels and office buildings,” Harper said. “We’re providing much needed services for a segment of the community that is underserved.”

In fact, Harper said a visit to the UCC is not much different than going to a traditional clinic or doctor’s office. After walking into Grady’s triage center and being screened by a nurse, those patients who do not require emergency medical attention are given appointments in the UCC. Doctors then see patients either at or reasonably close to the exact appointment time.

The greatest advantage to the UCC, Harper said, is that all patient care is provided directly or supervised by an Emory or Morehouse physician.

“The patients here are getting excellent care from well-trained, world-class, dedicated physicians,” Harper said. “[They] always get contact with an Emory physician.”

Another important part of the UCC health care team is the physician assistants, nurses and Grady staff. Two of the physician assistants have special training in orthopedics, while another has gynecological training.

Two full-time social workers are also on staff to troubleshoot for domestic violence, HIV infection and other social and health issues.

Additional advantages to the UCC are onsite availability of many diagnostic services (such as CT scan) often not available at traditional doctors’ offices and convenient hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Doctors also are able to direct patients to specific clinics if patients have medical problems that require a specialist.


Back to Emory Report Feb. 26, 2001