Since opening for business six months ago, the East Hampton Urgent Care Center, an offshoot of Southampton Hospital’s emergency room that was developed in association with the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation, has been a busy place.
Dr. Darren Wiggins, a member of the consortium of doctors that staff the Urgent Care Center, as well as the hospital emergency room, said the center was far busier over the summer than its operators had expected it would be.
Dr. Wiggins said the Urgent Care Center, on Montauk Highway in East Hampton, treated up to 40 patients a day in the summer and has been treating an average of about 15 patients a day this fall. The volume of patients exceeded the initial hopes for the center and its operators are now confident that they have found a niche that will sustain the center for years to come.
“The first day, we saw 16 patients, which is a lot for the first day you open your doors,” Dr. Wiggins said. “We were going to be thrilled if anyone showed up. This clearly is an area that is under-served. There are not enough physicians out here and the doctors that are there cannot accommodate all their patients.”
Dr. Wiggins said that a significant slump in traffic is expected in mid-winter but he expects the center will sustain itself until the spring.
“You try to make enough money in the summer to pay your winter bills, same as a car mechanic or any business out here does,” he said. “We’ve used the same concept in running the ER department at the hospital. If we survive the first winter and make it to next summer, I think we’ll be fine.”
The Urgent Care Center was built and outfitted with private funding by the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation and is maintained by the hospital. Dr. Wiggins’ group, the seven doctors who make up East Hampton Urgent Care LLC,, operate the center seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
While not a full-fledged emergency room, the urgent care center is intended to provide care for injuries and illnesses that are not life threatening but require immediate attention. Usually, a private doctor’s office, with a backlog of appointments, would not be able to handle such cases, Dr. Wiggins said. The center sees patients on a walk-in basis and started accepting coverage from most major health insurance providers last month. Prior to that, the center accepted only immediate payment for care.
Shiela Rogers, director of the Healthcare Foundation, which operates a medical facility on Pantigo Lane, said her organization is committed to helping the center do well and stay viable through its first lean winter.
“They’re doing a great job and we want them to be successful,” Ms. Rogers said. “They’re giving flu shots and free blood pressure checks every day. It’s an important service in East Hampton that is badly needed.”