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In a major departure from its traditional role, Cottage Health announced it will be opening 10 new urgent care clinics along the South Coast from Camarillo to San Luis Obispo. The first one is slated to open this summer in Hollister Village across the street from the Camino Real Marketplace.
By providing new venues to treat less acute medical problems, Cottage is hoping to take some pressure off its emergency rooms, not to mention the offices of local family practice doctors, said Dr. Ed Wroblewski, Cottage’s chief medical officer. Wroblewski said Cottage has been germinating the plan for the past 18 months, inspired by the chronic and growing shortage of general practice doctors. Many patients, he noted, have no GP, and even those who have one often experience lengthy waits in getting appointments.
The new clinics will be staffed with nurse practitioners and three “concierge” clinicians, he said. All will have at least one physician assigned for consultations when needed. The new clinics will be able to stitch up patients with cuts and lacerations, take X-rays, dispense a limited range of medications, and put sprained and strained limbs in the proper splints. Any serious, chronic, and complex health problems will be referred to the ER or the appropriate specialists.
Wroblewski said the target was for the new clinics to handle 30 patients a day. Medicare and Medicaid will be accepted, as will other forms of insurance, he added. Any new urgent care centers will necessarily find themselves competing with the several already doing business in the South Coast.
Santa Barbara’s ever-evolving health-care market is undergoing some other major changes, with UCLA renting enough space to open two new clinics in Santa Barbara, one on Coast Village Road and the other near Cottage Hospital. Wroblewski stressed that the announcement has nothing to do with that. “We were talking about this two years ago,” he stated. “This is not in response to that.”