From fishing hooks to heart attacks, UCCs see it all
Emergency medicine physician Theodore Spevack, DO, recently saw a patient who thought he was having indigestion and came to the Falmouth Urgent Care Center for treatment. It turned out he was having a heart attack.
“That’s the kind of patient that should come to the emergency department, instead of urgent care,” Dr. Spevack said. “But it makes me glad that we have doctors and nurses at our urgent care centers who are trained in emergency medicine.”
As soon as the urgent care staff saw the complaint come up on the board – elderly man who thinks he has indigestion and he has a little pain in his shoulder – they brought him right in for an electrocardiogram. A nurse put an IV in him and gave him nitroglycerin because he was having chest pains, which relieved his discomfort, at least temporarily, Dr. Spevack said.
“Every heart attack is serious but some are more serious than others. He had the most serious of all, the most lethal kind,” he said. “We were able to temporize the emergency – recognize it and relieve it and then get him where he needed to be. We called 911 and got him to the hospital and I understand he did quite well. He was really lucky actually.”
Urgent care centers are designed for the treatment of minor illnesses and injuries, but because they’re staffed by ER-trained doctors and nurses, they can handle just about anything.
Dr. Spevack spent 35 years as an emergency medicine physician in the Bronx, N.Y., and Wareham before becoming part of the staff last year at Cape Cod Healthcare’s Urgent Care – Falmouth and Urgent Care – Sandwich at Stoneman Outpatient Center.
Since his arrival, he has seen a variety of complaints and cases – all of which have called on his emergency medicine background to diagnose and treat.
“We certainly see patients with relatively minor trauma, which would include cuts, sprains, some fractures, injuries from falls, that kind of thing,” he said.
When To Go To Urgent Care
Some patients are uncertain about when to go to an urgent care center, which is a good choice for things like sore throats, earaches, back pain, fever, flu, colds, minor burns and tick bites, according to Dr. Spevack.
“I think on both ends of the spectrum, there is confusion,” he said. “We’ve had quite a number of people who come in worried that they’re having a heart attack or even a stroke and said, ‘I didn’t want to go to the emergency department in case it turns out that it’s something simple.’ That’s not a good idea. It delays their getting the care that they might really need.
“Then there’s a group of people who find out after going to the ER that they could have come here and gotten an X-ray. If they have a broken bone, we can splint it and set them up with an orthopedist.”
The ailments Dr. Spevack sees at the urgent care centers change a little with the seasons.
“Fishing season is coming and we’ll be taking out lots of fish hooks for people,” he said. “We get them out fast and people can go back and still fish the rest of the day. A lot of them do that.
“Come summer we get quite a number of patients who are visiting the Cape and get injured or sick or have a problem with their chronic medical illnesses, but they don’t have a doctor to go to. They end up in urgent care and I think that’s a good service we provide for them.”
One advantage of an urgent care center is that 95 percent of patients are treated and can leave within an hour.
“At an emergency department, if you’re sick with something relatively minor compared to the person who’s potentially dying of some catastrophic illness or injuries, you’re going to have to wait. Anybody who comes in by ambulance is going to go ahead of you.
“At the urgent care centers, people every day say, ‘I can’t believe how nice everybody was and how quickly I was able to get in and out of here.’ People are so appreciative.”