Health complications can occur any day of the year and at any time of the day.

Your grandchild sprains an ankle while playing in your backyard. Or you wake up in the night with an unusually high fever. Or maybe you or a loved one develop symptoms of a possible heart attack.

Chances are, you’ll head to the emergency department, Urgent Care or make an appointment with your regular physician. But which location is right for your specific situation?

URGENT CARE

The Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Urgent Care clinic in Braselton is a good option for patients who have non-life threatening issues that could get worse in the time it takes to get an appointment with your primary care physician.

That can include anything from a cold, flu or bronchitis, to minor cuts and burns, sprains and minor broken bones.

Dr. Sakib Maya, NGPG Urgent Care medical director, said the clinic is designed to treat minor illnesses, including patients with respiratory symptoms, sinus symptoms, urinary tract infections, sprains and minor fractures, along with lacerations, aches and pains.

“We try to avoid severe abdominal pain, respiratory pain where people are short of breath (even at rest) and definitely chest pain, especially in the elderly,” Dr. Maya said.

For those more severe cases, Dr. Maya said the Urgent Care has a good relationship with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton Emergency Department. The Urgent Care clinic is located in Medical Plaza 1, next door to the NGMC Braselton main campus and emergency department. If the patient’s vitals are stable and they have someone with them, they can take a private vehicle from the Urgent Care to the Emergency Department. EMS is also available to transport patients to the Emergency Department if needed.

“We communicate well with the ER,” said Dr. Maya. “And our nurses call the charge nurses there right away and give them an update on what’s coming and what to do… We try to keep it smooth for the patient.”

But for the less severe cases that can be treated at Urgent Care, there are some definite benefits to visiting an urgent care center over an Emergency Department, namely the lower cost and the time.

“I would say the biggest benefit would be the time,” said Dr. Maya. “The ER has its own protocols. They’re a bigger facility and do more blood work. And they have more patients.”

Dr. Maya said a patient could come in to Urgent Care with a minor fracture and be in-and-out with a splint within 20 minutes, depending on the day.

“I rarely see anyone spend more than an hour here,” said Dr. Maya. “Unless they have to for fluids or something.”

Urgent Care also has an online “Save My Spot” option, along with a wait time estimate. Dr. Maya said you could wake up at 8 a.m. with ankle pain and see that you have free time at 2 p.m. that day, “Save your Spot” and walk-in almost immediately at 2 p.m. The initiative also allows patients to stay home where it’s more comfortable until their appointment time.

Urgent Care does have its limitations, though.

“We can do a lot, but at the same time we’re limited,” said Dr. Maya, adding that the biggest limitation is imaging since the clinic doesn’t have ultrasound or CT scan technologies. Urgent Care is able to do X-rays, however, and has a good working relationship with other departments that have those additional technologies available for ultrasounds and CT scans.

Urgent Care is not a 24-hour facility, so patients with late-night emergency situations would need to go to the Emergency Department. Urgent Care is open every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For a more comprehensive list of the common issues treated at urgent care, along with the Save My Spot sign-up, visit https://www.nghs.com/urgent-care.

NGPG also offers e-visits, which cost $40, and can be used to screen for flu, COVID-19, sinus issues, urinary problems and vaginal discharge concerns. Find out more at https://www.ngpg.org/evisit.

EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT

Urgent Care is a great option for patients with more minor ailments, but serious issues do come up and when they do, it’s best to head to the Emergency Department.

Dr. Douglas Morrison, NGMC Braselton emergency department medical director, noted there’s a wide variety of reasons someone may need to visit an ER.

“It’s so broad that it’s hard to define,” said Dr. Morrison. “You really kind of go by symptoms.”

Emergency situations can include those with shortness of breath, chest pains, severe headaches, burns, poisonings, severe injuries and pediatric situations with major concerns. But those are just a few of the reasons someone may choose to go to the ER.

“If someone perceives they need to go to the ER, then they need to go to the ER,” said Dr. Morrison. “…We have to listen to the patient significantly. If somebody tells us they’ve had a significant change in their health, that’s an emergency until proven otherwise.”

NGMC Braselton also has advanced care for stroke and cardiac situations.

The hospital is a primary stroke center, which allows NGMC Braselton to handle all stroke care except clot extractions. NGMC Braselton can administer clot busting medication, and has specially trained nursing staff and a section in the intensive care unit for post-stroke care. The hospital also offers in-patient care, rehabilitation, and education about stroke care.

NGMC Braselton also has a robust emergency cardiac center and can treat all heart attacks, but cannot perform open heart surgery.

“We can treat all heart attacks the same way we can treat all strokes,” Dr. Morrison said. “…We can give you the medicine to help. We can put in a stint. We can open up the artery. We can remove the clot. And we can provide all the in-patient and after care, and intensive care.”

Dr. Morrison added that NGMC Braselton has made huge strides in stroke and cardiac care over the past five years.

“We started out as a hospital, but it takes a lot of work to become a primary stroke center and an advanced cardiac care center,” he said.

DON’T DELAY TREATMENT

Regardless of whether an Urgent Care facility or the Emergency Department is best for your situation, it’s important not to delay seeking treatment for medical issues.

“We had a significant number of months where people were just scared to come in,” said Dr. Morrison. “And that was really to the detriment of the healthcare of the community.”

Dr. Morrison noted people were ignoring symptoms of strokes or shortness of breath and chest pains.

“The stuff that we did see, we were seeing too late,” said Dr. Morrison.

He noted for time-sensitive situations like strokes and heart attacks, you can’t delay.

“You’ve got an hour or up to four hours to treat these things,” he said. “You don’t have two days.”

Dr. Morrison noted that while he understands the trepidation of patients not wanting to come into the hospital during the pandemic, the hospital follows strict protocols and is safe for its patients.

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