Immediate Care or EMERGENCY?
Accidents, illnesses and injuries strike at all hours of the day and night, on holidays and weekends, and every day in between. The National Safety Council estimates that an injury happens every two seconds. Not all are considered life-threatening emergencies, but how do you know where you can turn for help?
Thousands of families have turned to Palos Community Hospital when faced with an unexpected medical situation. Emergency services are available around-the-clock at the hospital in Palos Heights, and prompt attention for minor illnesses and injuries is offered from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at the Palos Primary Care Center in Orland Park and from 1 to 9 p.m. each day at the Palos Immediate Care Center in Palos Heights.
For Minor Emergencies
For many years, there were only two treatment options for medical problems - a doctor's office or hospital emergency room. Since l985, Palos Community Hospital has offered a third alternative - the Immediate Care Center at the Palos Primary Care Center in Orland Park, and then in 2002, we opened the Palos Immediate Care Center in Palos Heights. Both are designed to meet the minor health care needs of patients in a timely, efficient and convenient manner.
"Sometimes when you're sick or injured, you don't have the luxury of waiting to see your doctor," says Jim Walsh, R.N., manager, Clinical Services, Primary Care Center. "Your situation may not be critical enough for a visit to the hospital's Emergency department, but you still need medical attention right away. That's when we can help."
If you have a condition that's not life threatening - like a sprain, a small cut that needs stitches or even a urinary tract infection - and your family physician is not available, you can turn to one of Palos' Immediate Care Centers (ICCs) for treatment. ICC services are a natural extension of the quality care we offer at the hospital, and for minor accidents and illnesses, it's typically less expensive than an emergency room visit. Basic X-rays are available at both locations, and the ICC in Orland Park also provides laboratory services, PET and CT scans, EKGs, and pre-surgical testing.
In 2009, nearly 45,000 people turned to the kind, efficient care provided at Palos Immediate Care Centers. Patients are assessed and treated by skilled Palos Community Hospital doctors and nurses. No appointments are necessary.
When is Immediate Care Better?
Here are some important questions to help you decide whether a visit to the Immediate Care Center is in order.
- Is this something that could be handled in a doctor's office?
- Do I need medical attention right away?
- Is it possible that I would need diagnostic laboratory or radiology services?
If you answered "yes" to the above questions, a trip to an Immediate Care Center is a good idea.
"Sometimes patients don't realize how sick they are," Walsh explains. "If a person comes to the ICC with serious symptoms that would best be handled in the Emergency Department, like chest pains or a complicated fracture, we will arrange for a transport to the hospital. Our main concern is always that the individual receives the most appropriate treatment for his or her condition."
If your condition is more than minor, the Palos Community Hospital Emergency Department (ED) offers a full range of professional medical and support services to meet patient needs... no matter what their situation. "The Emergency Department is the place for people to go with many types of medical problems," says Mark Netzel, D.O., medical director, Palos Emergency Department. "From heart attacks and fractures, to lacerations and sore throats, we can take care of them all.
Last year alone, nearly 50,000 patients relied on the care and compassion of Palos' experienced ED personnel. When an individual arrives at the ED - even before registration - he or she is "triaged" (evaluated) by a specially trained registered nurse.
"Our approach to patient care is holistic," says James Boyle, R.N., director of ED/ICCU. "We examine the physical and psychological state of each individual and note every detail. Good listening skills are imperative - sometimes the things patients don't tell us are just as important as the things they do."
If needed, the triage nurse, with standing orders by an ED doctor, can order X-rays or specimens. That way, physicians have vital information when they begin the examination, which helps speed the delivery of care at a time when minutes count.
"We treat patients in the order of need," Boyle explains. "Some situations are more life threatening and are handled first. But we always keep in mind that to each individual, his or her illness or injuries are urgent."
On the Fast Track
For those conditions that are not life- threatening, there's the Palos Fast Track - a system designed to address the needs of ED patients with problems that do not require extensive work-ups or treatment. These individuals can be cared for faster when they are distinguished from the more critical cases.
Once identified, less-severe patients are put on the "Fast Track" for a more rapid turnaround. The Outpatient department, located next to the Emergency Department, is used to care for Fast Track patients during the busiest times, from 3 to 11 p.m. daily. Separate ED physicians, nurses, nursing assistants and a unit secretary are assigned to this area.
When is ED Needed?
Although the signs and symptoms aren't clear-cut because of the variety of illnesses and injuries, here are some general questions to help you decide if you should go to the Emergency Department.
- Are there problems with the organs and systems that sustain life, such as heart, lungs, kidneys or the central nervous system?
- Has there been a sudden onset of a condition, such as loss of vision, speech, consciousness, function of limbs; or sudden, significant pain?
- Has there been vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours?
- Is there uncontrolled bleeding?
- Has there been a major injury to the body or head, with loss