Urgent care centers are an increasingly common choice for immediate health care needs. The chances are high you have one close to your neighborhood, whether in New Haven or across the country. But the urgent care center may not be your best option when the medical attention you need is indeed urgent.
A recent medical malpractice suit filed against an urgent care clinic has raised the awareness of consumers and medical professionals alike of the regulation, or lack thereof, of these kinds of clinics.
In the malpractice case, a wife alleges that her husband went to an urgent care center to seek treatment for joint pain. He returned home after seeing a physician's assistant at the clinic, who recommended exercise for him. A few weeks later, though, the man died of a heart attack.
The lawsuit alleges that a delayed diagnosis contributed to his death. The lawsuit has in turn led to an investigation of urgent care centers in Connecticut and surrounding states, which discovered that physician assistants may treat patients even when there is no physician actually onsite.
While regulations require that a physician assistant be "supervised" by a doctor, they only require that the physician be accessible by email or phone.
One owner of an urgent care center says the centers are not emergency rooms, and that those having a heart attack or stroke should go to the ER instead. But this may not be a persuasive argument, because it appears to assume that the patient knows that he or she is having, or will soon experience a heart attack or a stroke.
How would the patient, presumably not a medical professional, know before the visit what his or her symptoms mean and which type of facility to visit?
If you or a loved one has suffered further injury, a worsened condition or even death after a visit to an urgent care clinic, it would be prudent to visit an attorney who understands the regulations pertinent to these clinics in Connecticut.
Even if a patient makes an inaccurate assessment of his or her condition and goes to an urgent care center around the corner instead of waiting for an ambulance to go to an emergency room, it is still the responsibility of the medical professionals to make sure that they are properly equipped to provide sufficient care.
Source: NBC New York, “I-Team: Urgent Care Centers Are Booming, But Some Say Regulatory Standards Aren't Keeping Up,” Pei-Sze Cheng and Ann Givens, Nov. 19, 2014