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MedCare turns to primary care from urgent care
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Led by Dr. Slava Kukuca, Effingham Hospital Administrator Norma Jean Morgan, nurse practitioner Janice Ford, Dr. Maria Rivera and hospital Board of Trustees Chairman L. Stephen Mobley, a ribbon cutting signifies the changing of the MedCare facility at Goshen Road and Highway 21 from urgent care to primary care. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

After nearly a year of consideration, the MedCare Center at Goshen Road and Highway 21 is changing its focus.

The Effingham Hospital’s MedCare Center is now a primary care center, rather than an urgent care center, and hospital officials marked the occasion with a ribbon cutting at the facility.

The change means MedCare will focus far less on emergency situations and more on a family practice type of care.

“It means you have more availability of a regular physician in this area than in the past,” Effingham Hospital Administrator Norma Jean Morgan said. “A primary care physician can establish a relationship with a patient and gets familiar with what’s going on in your health status. They follow you.”

By contrast, Morgan said, an urgent care or emergency room doctor might see a patient one time and never treat them again.

The hospital’s board began looking at making MedCare a primary care facility in February 2006.

“We think that was more needed down here than an urgent care facility,” Morgan said.

Said L. Stephen Mobley, chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees, “It’s just another positive change for the hospital.”

Hospital officials also said the number of Effingham residents driving to Savannah for a primary care physician reflected a need to change MedCare’s focus.

“That’s one of the reasons we have changed the focus,” said Dr. Slava Kukuca, the MedCare medical director.

“I think we’re doing the right thing for the community,” Morgan said. “We have a number of people who need primary care and don’t have a primary care physician.”

As an urgent care facility, the staff at MedCare saw a lot of semi-acute cases, according to Dr. Kukuca. More than 14,000 people used MedCare last year.

“We will still continue to do that,” Dr. Kukuca said of the urgent care, “but we’re changing to a more broader, more comprehensive coverage.”

Some things are changing, especially with the addition of family nurse practitioner Janice Ford. Ford was with the Effingham County Health Department for more than 25 years. Her focus at MedCare will be on women’s health issues.

“I’m excited about that,” Morgan said. “She has tremendous primary health care experience. When we had the opportunity here, it was a great fit.”

Other changes include limiting the ages of patients seen. MedCare will see patients 10 years and older.

“That encourages parents to either choose a pediatrician or use the emergency room at the hospital with emergency-trained physicians,” Morgan said.

MedCare will be open 363 days a year and open until 8 p.m. each weekday. Dr. Kukuca, who is joined by Dr. Maria Rivera as the center’s two primary care physicians, said that will allow people who work a chance to see a doctor without having to miss work.

“There’s always going to be someone here,” he said.

The hospital also will be building an imaging center next to MedCare, which also houses a Quick RX pharmacy.

“That will enhance our resources we can provide to our patients,” Dr. Kukuca said.

Said Morgan, “We’re building a village here of health care providers.”