Monday, January 25, 2010

Pediatric Urgent Care Is Anything But Urgent

Casey's fever did not subside by Sunday.

So off we went to our local (pediatric) urgent care, where they do not triage.

I actually think this played to our advantage, given that all we had were four days' of a fever (ranging from 101 to 103.9) and an infrequent cough. But I was struck by how long the wait was. We arrived 25 minutes after opening, were seen after about 3 hours of waiting and then discharged another hour later.

In chatting with a couple other moms in the waiting area (both there for ear infections and just in need of antibiotics for their girls), and in exchanging stories with them, it struck me how terrible our Children's Hospital system is at treating urgent patients. When you got to the ER, even by ambulance, they triage. So even if you have a broken bone, unless it is compound and you need surgery, you could be waiting six hours or more (and in fact, we ran into that on one of our trips to the ER). This is so even when the doctor sends you there and calls ahead.

Urgent care on the weekends is much the same.

But the thing is, what else can you do? If Sunday happens to be day four of fever, the options are urgent care or ER. If your kid breaks his arm on a Saturday, your options are urgent care or ER. And if your insurance company is like ours, we have to go to the children's urgent care.

What I learned is that our children's hospital urgent care is staffed by one doctor. One. A second one gets called in eventually (after about 2 1/2 hours, in our case). I guess I should be impressed that one doctor was able to handle 14 patients in under 3 hours. But I just felt bad for her.

So I've come to the conclusion that, given the number of kids who are in accidents or fall ill on the weekends, we most definitely understaff our urgent care (and ER system). Why? I have no idea.

Casey wasn't feeling well, so he was fine with laying all over me and watching the endless loop of Disney movies. When he felt better, we downloaded a Magic Treehouse book on my Kindle and took turns reading to each other. When the doctor finally got to us, after listening to him breathe and giving him a breathing treatment, she explained that any true diagnosis would require x-rays at a nearby (not pediatric) hospital, and the wait would be at least 2 hours. Then they'd have to be read and blah blah blah blah. (I stopped listening.) Fortunately, she was willing to send us home with an inhaler and antibiotics as an alternative. And off we went to the pharmacy.

His fever was gone by morning (thank you antibiotics), and he was in good spirits all day at Grandma's house, enjoying homemade soup for lunch and a full spread of Chinese and American food for dinner. (Yum!)

2 comments:

:::d::: said...

I'm glad that Casey is feeling better.

It is incredibly upsetting to know that we pay a high price for our insurance and yet receive terrible service. No one should have to wait 3 hours to see a doctor, especially at urgent care.

Mary said...

Hi,

This is the assistant editor for Hospital.com which is a medical publication offering hospital news, information and reviews. We also cover a wide variety of medical issues, one of which being Children's Health and the importance of choosing the right hospital. You will notice articles on this topic under Children's tab. If possible I would like Hospital.com to be included within your blog roll, offering our information as a resource to your readers. Please let me know if this addition can be made.

Please email me back with your URL in subject line to take a step ahead and to avoid spam.

Thank you
Mary Miller,
may.hospital.com@gmail.com