By MIKE REUTHER
JERSEY SHORE - There was a time not too long ago when Jersey Shore Hospital's Urgent Care center in McElhattan saw perhaps 10 patients a day.
Urgent Care registered nurses Mitzi Miller, left, and Pam Braucht look over patient information. The two are experiencing heavier volumes of patients coming to the Urgent Care center since it opened two years ago.
These days, the health care facility established to ease the burden placed upon the hospital's emergency room is visited daily by more than 30 people.
The increase in patient visits recently prompted hospital officials to make Urgent Care available every day.
"I think the community will be glad to see it open seven days a week," said registered nurse Mitzi Miller.
The Urgent Care center opened in 2011, but was closed until this August on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
It features three exam rooms, a radiology area, nursing station, and a waiting room and is staffed by registered nurses, physician assistants and a medical director.
Jersey Shore Hospital spokeswoman Erin Welsh said there has simply been a steady influx of patient visits over the last two years.
"We have a lot of repeat patients," she said.
Positive word of mouth has brought new patients and increased the number of visits to the Urgent Care Center.
Karen Zinoble, chief nursing officer, said despite the boost in patient volumes, the size of the medical staff is sufficient, at least for now.
A physician is on site several times a week, but eventually may be there more often.
"We may need more exam rooms," she said.
Urgent Care is for those in need of non-emergency care for minor health problems including cuts and abrasions, strains and sprains, and broken bones.
Of course, many people with more serious medical issues, including heart attack and hip fracture victims that require emergency care, come to the Urgent Center anyway.
Those patients are quickly sent or taken to the hospital's ER.
"We get people who shouldn't come here," she said.
The goal is to have all Urgent Care patients in and out of the clinic in 90 minutes, noted Welsh.
Because the medical problems are not of an acute nature, patients are seen on a first-come, first serve basis.
Overall, Urgent Care is a "good interim solution" for patients, according to Welsh.
"It shouldn't be seen as an alternative to the family doctor," she said.
Miller said Thursdays had been the busiest days for Urgent Care, likely due to it being closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Weekends and Mondays are heavy patient times as well.
"We have gotten so busy," she said. "We have seen up to 44 patients a day."
Zinoble said Urgent Care has received a lot of positive feedback from customers.
"It's worked out very well," she said.
Market research company IbisWorld reported earlier this year that the urgent care industry is the fastest-growing segment of American's overall health care system.
The $15 billion industry is expected to grow as more people seek faster ways to access care.