Ben Taub General Hospital is one of only two Level 1 trauma centers in the region. As such, anywhere from 250-400 people show up for treatment at the hospital's emergency room. Hospital Administrator Jeff Webster says as many as 100 patients a day will be diverted to the new urgent care center.
"It does help us to decompress our trauma and emergency room so that our health professionals that are focused on taking care of emergency cases and trauma cases -- that is decongested so that those patients are seen in the right care venue."
Urgent care is a step down from emergency care. Not everyone who presents at the ER actually needs to be admitted there. Urgent Care Center Nurse Coordinator Joaquina Simmons says ER triage nurses will assess each patient to determine the level of care needed.
"We see things like patients who need medication refills, patients who may have flu-like symptoms, patients who have minor lacerations -- things that need to be taken care of today and they can't wait a week for an appointment or to go in and see a primary-care physician."
The new center replaces four exam rooms that were taking up space in the main ER. Webster says they've more than doubled the capacity with eight exam rooms, nurses' stations and space for wheelchairs and gurneys.
"Actually near the front entrance -- the patient entrance to our emergency room. And it was an area that was just reconfigured to accomodate for an urgent care center. But it is contiguous to the emergency room."
The Urgent Care Center was created as part of an initiative by the Harris County Hospital District to help relieve the burden on ERs and direct patients to more appropriate settings for medical needs. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.