Rural North Carolina hospital uses Walmart clinic to ease pressure on ED

Lumberton, N.C.-based Southeastern Regional Medical Center, a 452-bed hospital in a rural county, is looking to its Walmart urgent care clinic to avoid straining emergency departments with nonemergency care, North Carolina Health News reports.

The hospital has about 90,000 ED visits annually, according to Southeastern Health CEO Joann Anderson. "If you ask a lot of people in Robeson County who their primary care provider is, they are going to give you an emergency department physician name," Ms. Anderson told the legislative Committee on Access to Healthcare in Rural North Carolina.

Southeastern Health found a solution to ED overuse by launching an urgent care inside a local Walmart — and the site is one of Southeastern Health's busiest, Ms. Anderson said.

The clinic only has one exam room, and service prices are posted on the wall. A physical is $25, and for patients without insurance, a sick visit is $65. Patients can also get their prescriptions filled immediately at Walmart's pharmacy.

"They are in and out within 15 minutes," said Brooke Grooms, a nurse practitioner at the clinic. "We don't see complex issues here, just sinus infections, colds, flu. … There are times where I'll do more complex things like suturing, abscess drainage, but that's only if I don't have a line."

The clinic's providers send patients who need more advanced care to the Southeastern Health's "mall clinic," which has four exam rooms, more staff and can set fractures and provide X-rays.

For ED staff and patients, the clinic helps ease the stress of long wait times and costly care.

"I used to be an ER nurse. It was bad. We had 13-15 hour waits, and a lot of this county is unemployed," Ms. Grooms said. "With unemployment comes no insurance. The only place in town that will see you regardless of anything is the ER."

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