Emergencies are out, but walk-ins are welcome at Beebe’s new Walk-in Care Center in Millville. Formerly a seasonal Beebe emergency center, the walk-in center will now only provide immediate care for non-emergencies, particularly when primary care physicians are not available.
The center will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Summer hours continue until Labor Day, when autumn hours will be determined, by demand. No appointments are necessary for local residents or visitors.
The Walk-in Care Center is in Creekside Plaza, located next to the Food Lion shopping center, three miles west of Route 1. Creekside Plaza also houses the outpatient services of Beebe Imaging, Beebe Lab Express and Beebe Rehab.
The Millville facility has served in various capacities in the past, including emergency center and a winter walk-in clinic.
The change in the services provided at the facility resulted from “consumer demand,” according to a Beebe press release, which noted that, in the summer of 2011, the 24-hour emergency center was not treating many severe emergencies.
“More than 98 percent of the people we were seeing really needed what [we label] walk-in services,” said Kelly Griffin, Beebe’s marketing and communications director.
However, patients treated at an emergency center had to be billed at emergency room rates, regardless of the reason for their visit, so some patients paid high emergency costs for minor ailments. Plus, some insurance companies would not pay for emergency room visits in non-emergency situations.
“It’s frustrating for people, and that’s expecting consumers to know what level of care they need,” Griffin said.
Examples of the illnesses and health problems that will be appropriate for treatment in the Beebe Walk-in Center include: allergies; cough, cold, flu; upper respiratory infections; bronchitis; laryngitis; strep throat/sore throat; sinus infections; ear infections; swimmer’s ear; minor eye infections, pinkeye, sties and abrasions; bladder infections; sprains and strains; minor burns, cuts and simple lacerations; uncomplicated neck and back pain; incision and drainage; and simple splinting.
Although the Walk-In Care Center is not intended to replace primary-care physicians, medical records can be forwarded to physicians with the patients’ permission.
Griffin said the new center is staffed in part by employees from Beebe’s walk-in clinic in the Rehoboth Kmart, which is under renovation.
The telephone number at the Walk-in Center is (302) 541-4175, and additional information can be found online at www.beebemed.org.
In the event of severe illness or life-threatening accident, Beebe recommends calling 911.
With the Millville emergency center closed, the nearest hospitals with an emergency departments are Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, Md., and Beebe Medical Center in Lewes.
The elimination of the emergency services in Millville could also affect emergency medical services in surrounding towns. Ambulances are likely to get more calls but will also be unable to drop patients with minor emergencies at nearby Millville.
“That’s going to affect our citizens. I project our call volume is going to increase,” said John Watson, EMS chief at Millville Volunteer Fire Company.
Without a nearby emergency center, he said, people are more likely to call 911, rather than drive themselves to Lewes.
With more calls, response time will slow down. In Millville, paid EMTs operate one ambulance at all times. On weekends, volunteers run a second ambulance.
Plus, ambulances will be unable to take patients to the nearby Millville center for emergency treatment. Watson estimated that Millville ambulances alone took 13 patients to the Millville emergency center last summer, instead of all the way to Lewes. They also transported 21 patients from that center to Lewes when Beebe needed extra transport.
“I think it’s going to have a major impact on our service, and that’s just Millville,” he said. “We’re gonna be more busy. It’s gonna slow down.”
Multiply that increased call volume by that expected by other local ambulance companies in Roxana, Frankford, Bethany Beach, Selbyville and Dagsboro, and it’s possible to see why the lack of emergency center is a concern for some.
According to Watson, a Beebe representative said 4,500 patients total were served at Millville emergency center last year.
Public meeting scheduled
State Rep. Gerald Hocker and Sen. George Bunting have invited representatives of Beebe Medical Center to a public meeting Monday, June 11, from 7 to 8 p.m. at Millville Fire Hall. They will do a presentation on the issue and answer questions from the public.
Hocker told the Coastal Point he has mixed feelings about the changeover. On one hand, people won’t have to pay emergency rates for minor illness, he said. However, a proposed medical center on Route 17 was put on hold several years ago, and the summer clinic appears to focus on seasonal, not year-round, needs.
“They claim they experimented few years ago,” said Hocker. “When they did open it year-round, it just wasn’t feasible. The population in southeast Sussex is really growing, and the closest facility we have is Beebe. And the area just feels they would like to have something closer.
“It works both ways, but I think Beebe needs to explain this,” he continued. “There are just an awful lot of questions. The best way to answer them is to ask for a public meeting.”
The meeting will only relate to the topic at hand, and questions on other topics will not be addressed.