Before Valley Immediate Care opened its doors in Ashland last month, seeking immediate health care without an established doctor or medical home meant a trip to the hospital emergency room or Medford.
"There was just an overwhelming flood of people saying, 'Why don't you come to Ashland?' " said Brent Kell, chief executive officer of the walk-in medical service provider, which opened its fourth clinic in Southern Oregon at 1401 Siskiyou Blvd., on July 29.
"We have been very busy from day one ... two or three times more than I expected we would see," said Kell, strolling through the former Blockbuster Video building that now houses a plethora of medical equipment.
The clinic has four patient rooms, a digital X-ray room and medical laboratory, among other offices, all operated by one medical doctor and three support staff, Kell said.
Since opening, about 15 patients each day have checked in to receive medical attention at the clinic, he said.
"We do a little bit of everything. ... We're a good spot for the general public that has an episodic need for medical treatment," Kell said. "If you're having heart issues, chest pain, shortness of breath, or if there is a fracture that can be seen from the outside, do not stop here. Go to the emergency room."
Although its clinics accept most medical insurance, Valley Immediate Care is a preferred provider with Regence and PacificSource, Kell said, and people with no medical insurance will not be turned away at any of its clinics.
"We try to get people care and worry about that stuff later. If someone needs care, we'll treat them," Kell said. "We do collect what we can initially, but we try to be financially friendly with our patients and set up a reasonable schedule for payment."
Two Valley Immediate Care clinics operate in Medford and one in Grants Pass, with an occupational health center in White City. The clinics will serve an estimated 60,000 patients this year, Kell said.
The clinic in Ashland is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Patients can schedule appointments online at www.valley-ic.com or by calling 541-734-9030.
"We are thrilled to have this here," said 102-year-old Nancy Marr of Ashland.
"It's wonderful. At last Ashland has some help," said Marr, who was seeking help Thursday for an eye irritation.
When Ashlander Denny Thorpe's visiting daughter-in-law started coming down with an eye infection Thursday, she couldn't take her to her own physician and it didn't warrant a trip to the emergency room, so they walked into the clinic and saw a doctor within the hour.
"It's a good thing to have here," said Thorpe. "If I have a problem over the weekend, or on Friday, I could come here, because the doctor I see is closed."
"Oftentimes we have to refer people to Valley Immediate Care or the emergency room, and they receive wonderful care at both places, but when you go there it's not the same as going to your medical home," said Karen Elliott, marketing director for Community Health Center in Ashland.
"I think it's wonderful that they are in Ashland, and they provide a great service to the community, they serve a great many people, but we always encourage people to establish a medical home," Elliott said, because it allows for patient-physician familiarity.
To Kell, who has worked at Valley Immediate Care since 2002, the organization's clinics are helping solve the public's problem with getting access to health care.
"Across the country, a lot more people are getting insurance, but nobody is fixing the access problem," he said. "We do our best to provide people with access to professional, affordable health care."
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.