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La Clinica to open acute care clinic

La Clinica is getting into the urgent care business with plans to open an acute care clinic.

“This has been something on our to-do list for a long time. When we poll patients about what they want more of, the No. 1 thing is more access,” said Dr. Justin Adams, chief medical officer for La Clinica.

La Clinica reserves time for same- or next-day appointments at its primary care clinics throughout the Rogue Valley. But if a patient with an acute injury or illness calls a clinic in the late morning, all the appointments might be booked for the day, Adams said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated La Clinica’s desire to open an acute care clinic.

In March, La Clinica turned part of its Wellness Center in Medford into a respiratory triage clinic for COVID-19 screening and testing. The space is blocked off, with a separate entrance to keep those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and patients with a cough, fever and other symptoms away from others, La Clinica officials said.

La Clinica is turning a nearby 1,500-square-foot, concrete-block building it uses for storage into an acute care clinic. Expected to open in January, the clinic at first will house the respiratory triage service.

The clinic will have six exam rooms and features to protect patients and employees from contagious illnesses. The pharmacy, lab and reception desk will have walk-up and drive-up service windows. A rolling overhead door will allow employees to open the waiting room to the outdoors, increasing fresh air circulation.

The building will also have an upgraded ventilation system and space for staff members to put on and take off protective gear, La Clinica officials said.

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available late this year and into 2021, the respiratory triage center will morph into an acute care clinic with the fading of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 helped us make the decision to fast-track the acute care clinic,” Adams said.

Within a year, the clinic will offer quick treatment for infectious illnesses and minor injuries. La Clinica plans to eventually expand the building and add wound care, sports physicals, well-child checks, initial visits for substance abuse care and imaging.

The acute care clinic will add another option for quick access in the Rogue Valley.

Valley Immediate Care, Providence and Asante are among the health care organizations that offer local urgent care clinics.

La Clinica focuses on low-income patients, but is open to everyone, including those with no insurance, Oregon Health Plan coverage and private insurance.

Adams said La Clinica will work to address underlying health issues even when patients show up for an urgent problem at the acute care clinic.

“I see it all the time. Patients come in because of a sore throat, but I notice their blood pressure is out of control,” he said.

The acute care clinic will be staffed with doctors who also work in primary care. They’ll be able to check if a patient’s diabetes is under control, or suggest a Pap test or colonoscopy if someone is overdue for a preventative screening procedure, Adams said.

The more-inclusive care offered during an acute care visit will translate into convenience for the patient, plus better health, he said.

He noted health care providers need to take advantage of every opportunity to provide well-rounded care when they see patients.

“People don’t want to come in for an urgent care visit and then two other primary care visits,” Adams said. “We’re really excited about this next step in our evolution to provide walk-in access to care when patients need it.”

La Clinica officials said they are raising money for the acute care clinic through community donations and government and foundation grants.

Remodeling, permits and equipment for the clinic will push the initial investment in the project to nearly $900,000. Vitus Construction Inc. is the general contractor, La Clinica officials said.

Visit www.laclinicahealth.org/donate to help support the acute care center, the organization’s COVID-19 emergency response or general operations.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Wilmer Loar, a certified clinical medical assistant, tests an agricultural worker for COVID-19 outside La Clinica’s Wellness Center in Medford. La Clinica plans to remodel a building near the Wellness Center into a COVID-19 respiratory triage area that will morph into an acute care center as the pandemic fades. Courtesy photo