On Sept. 25, the Calhoun Yellow Jackets shutout the Ridgeland Panthers 60-0 in their first home football game of the season.
Just footsteps from the football field, a new AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care clinic had its doors wide open, ready to treat fans or athletes if they got
injured or sick during the game.
“We saw one patient toward the end of the game,” said Ashley Howell, FNP-C, a Calhoun High School alumna and nurse practitioner at AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care Calhoun City Schools.
The patient complained of abdominal pains, and Howell was able to provide her with some prescriptions and order a CT scan.
“For the students, the staff and the public who come to watch the games, it puts everybody at ease knowing we’re here on-site to offer medical care that may be needed,” Howell said.
The facility at 101 Yellow Jacket Drive is one of three urgent care clinics now operated by AdventHealth in Northwest Georgia and one of two the health system opened this summer to improve health care access throughout the area.
“The only urgent care with AdventHealth was the one near AdventHealth Gordon, so this community desperately was in need of more Urgent Care options,” said Marva Marcius, FNP-BC, a nurse practitioner at the Calhoun City Schools location. “It’s a big blessing to the community that they don’t have to drive across town to get medical help.”
AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care Adairsville Health Park also opened at 21 Commerce Parkway.
“This is the only urgent care in Adairsville,” said Zachary Cochran, NP-C, a nurse practitioner there. “We can treat anything from pediatrics to geriatrics.”
Before opening the clinic, Cochran said patients had to travel 10 miles to Calhoun or 20 minutes to Cartersville to seek medical help for urgent matters on the weekends of after hours.
AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care at Calhoun, located at 100 Hospital Court, has been serving patients for more than two decades.
“Sometimes, you know you’re not sick enough to go to the ER, but you need help and your doctor can’t accommodate you today and you know you cannot wait that long,” said Pablo Balboa, MD, a physician at the urgent care location on the campus of AdventHealth Gordon. “After hours and on the weekends when everybody’s closed, we are still here.”
The physicians and nurse practitioners who work at the three facilities said there are many benefits to seeking care at an urgent care clinic.
“The main benefit to Urgent Care is it’s come in whenever,” said Alyssa Crew, FNP-C, a nurse practitioner at the Adairsville clinic. “There’s no appointment time.”
Marcius said urgent care clinics also have low wait times, even with walk-in patients.
“We pride ourselves in getting patients in and out as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” she said. “We can usually see patients on the same day.”
She and Howell said many of the students they have treated for minor injuries or ailments have been able to return to class as soon as they left the clinic, which is located within walking distance of both Calhoun Middle School and the Calhoun High School. They also treat faculty and staff at both schools, as well as community members, including residents of the local housing authority located across the street.
“If people don’t have transportation, that means they usually forego care, and sometimes it turns into an emergent matter,” Howell said. “The clinic improves the accessibility of health care, but also improves the health of our community.”
Urgent Care is also often more affordable than seeking care in an emergency room, the providers said.
“A visit to urgent care is less expensive than going to the emergency room,” said Andrea Kovacic, MD, a physician in the Adairsville clinic. “It’s more cost effective and efficient than an emergency room,” Cochran added, saying wait times in an emergency room are often lengthy and unpredictable, especially for non-emergent matters that can easily be addressed in an urgent care setting.
Dr. Balboa and Dr. Kovacic are board-certified in family medicine, while Crew and Cochran worked as nurses in emergency departments before focusing on Urgent Care.
“That gives us an advantage because we’re able to determine who is really sick and who needs a higher level of care,” Crew said.
Most of the patients who seek their care do not require a referral to the emergency department, and many rely on them for their Primary Care needs, including preventative care like flu shots, annual physicals and routine checks of blood pressure and glucose levels.
“I have patients I’ve been seeing for 15 years,” Dr. Balboa said. “I also get to see the quick, never boring things. At urgent care, you never know what you’re going to see next, and I love that. I like them both.”
All three locations offer sports physicals for student-athletes and physicals required for employment by the Department of Transportation or Calhoun City Schools.
“A lot of primary care physicians don’t have those certifications,” Dr. Balboa said.
The amenities at each of the clinics include private exam rooms, procedure rooms, on-site X-rays and the ability to set a temporary splint for a fractured bone, administer IV fluids, sutures or draw blood for lab work.
They also do rapid testing to check thyroid function, A1c levels for diabetes care, strep and flu and began rapid testing for COVID-19 in the fall.
“During this pandemic, everybody is concerned when they start having nasal drainage, congestion, cough or low-grade fevers,” Howell said. “We’re seeing a lot of that, trying to rule out COVID-19.”
Because the clinics are within AdventHealth Medical Group, Howell said they share access to patient records maintained by other AdventHealth providers so patients benefit from continuity of care.
They also benefit from a shared vision to deliver whole-person care in keeping with AdventHealth’s mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ.
“It’s important for the community to have somewhere to go to for acute care or urgent needs, but also to have a place where they’re treated like a person and as part of a community,” Dr. Kovacic said. “Our patients are not treated like a number.”
Marcius agreed, saying they are doing their best to spread the word that their doors are open to anyone in the community who wants to stop in.
“We want them to know we are here and we are available and our doors are open and we are so excited to see them in their time of need,” she said. “We will do our best to serve them and get them feeling better soon."