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Sanford Worthington Medical Center begins offering acute care

The staff at Acute Care at Sanford Worthington Medical Center includes (from left) Donna Janssen, registrar, Becky Murphy, registered nurse, Erika Freking, certified nurse practitioner, Rachelle Bosma, certified medical assistant and (back row) Sherri Jorgensen, registrar.

WORTHINGTON -- If a child gets an ear infection on a Friday night, waiting for a Monday morning clinic visit seems like waiting for eternity, both for the frustrated parents and the miserable child.

When patients have medical conditions that aren't severe enough for the emergency department, yet seem too urgent to wait overnight or for a weekend, they can go to Sanford Worthington Medical Center's Acute Care.

"Acute Care would be your common colds, sore throats, bladder infections -- things that are now, not something you've had for days," explained Erika Freking, a certified nurse practitioner. "It's for something that needs to be seen, but isn't critical."

Freking gave the example of chronic back pain as something that would be more suitable for a clinic visit, as opposed to acute care.

A patient suffering a stroke, heart attack or injuries resulting from a motor vehicle collision should go straight to the emergency department, not to acute care. However, should a patient who would be better served at the emergency room turn up at acute care, he or she would be quickly transported to the correct place for the best treatment, Freking added.

Freking and fellow CNP Stacey Jumbeck staff the new Acute Care area from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on-call doctors staff it from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Patients do not need appointments to visit Acute Care, and service is performed on a first-come, first-serve basis. So far, wait times are very short, Freking said.

Two nursing staff, a medical provider and a receptionist form the Sanford Acute Care team in Worthington, which also provides some in-clinic testing to help speed things up.

Medical assistants can draw blood and courier it over to the lab for quicker results, and x-rays and other diagnostic work can be done in the hospital as well.

During the day, the Acute Care area is used for clinic-style outreach, when specialists from Sioux Falls, S.D., offer medical care. There are 10 exam rooms and a stress room, as well as a waiting area.

"It's a different environment -- that acute care, fast-paced care dealing with the individual needs," Freking said. "I'm excited about it. I'm really looking forward to doing something new, a new adventure."

The service is new to Sanford Worthington and intended to help meet the needs not just of the Worthington community, but of the small towns around it, and provide health care access to everyone.

Because acute care facilities are generally less expensive than emergency departments, it should also help lower the cost of care for both patients and the hospital.

Avera Medical Group Worthington also offers Urgent Care, which is staffed by physicians from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

"It's been appreciated by the patients due to the convenience," said Kelli Van Grouw, Avera Worthington's clinic manager.