Yuba Docs: ‘Health care when you need it’ | TheUnion.com

Yuba Docs: ‘Health care when you need it’

Yuba Docs is more than a place to go for a minor emergency on the weekend.

The urgent care center in Grass Valley is a thriving business whose founders are passionate about health care.

“People go into medicine to help people,” co-founder Linda Rachmel, RN, said.

Rachmel and her husband of 29 years, Dr. Roger Hicks, created a solution for patients who can’t see their doctor right away, have no health insurance or are visiting from out of town.

After receiving his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College, Hicks was drawn to emergency medicine.

“Working in the ER all these years, patients with a broken wrist would sit and wait” while people with life-threatening problems were being taken care of, Hicks remembered. It “clogs up the system,” he added.

While working for Sierra Docs, an urgent care center in Auburn, Hicks noticed Nevada County residents often waited for treatment. He saw a niche that needed to be filled.

“When we opened in 2000, it was the first urgent care center in Nevada County,” said Hicks.

Urgent care focuses on treating minor emergencies. Common injuries and illnesses seen at Yuba Docs include cuts, broken bones, pneumonia and eye injuries.

Seasons provide variation – in the summer, more river-based injuries are seen; in the winter, more flu patients, said Rachmel.

Yuba Docs offers flu shots and whooping cough vaccines.

The clinic is designed for those who can walk themselves in.

“If you need an ambulance, go to the ER,” said Hicks.

If patients show up with a life-threatening emergency, such as a heart attack, they’ll be treated and then sent to the hospital.

“We don’t turn people away,” he said.

Hicks describes Yuba Docs’ as offering “patient-centered care; health care when you need it.”

Two health providers are on duty daily. Limited appointments can be scheduled. If a patient walks in before the clinic closes, they’ll be seen that day.

With eight exam rooms, a nursing station and administrative offices for its 25 employees, Yuba Docs is deceptively large, hosting a comfortable waiting area filled with soothing music. Common medications are kept on hand to avoid trips to the pharmacy and drug testing is performed for outside agencies.

Yuba Docs performs X-rays and basic labs and tests in-house and works closely with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital for more complicated procedures.

It remains the only freestanding urgent care clinic in Nevada County and is one of the few Nevada County medical establishments accepting Workers Compensation.

Yuba Docs contracts with a handful of insurance providers. Patients whose insurance providers are partnered with Yuba Docs are charged their providers’ advertised co-pay at their visit.

Patients with insurance providers not contracted with Yuba Docs pay 50 percent of the cost of services.

Payment is required up front, and insurance providers will follow up with the patient directly if additional payment or reimbursement is needed.

Yuba Docs employs this billing model to avoid long waits for reimbursement from insurance companies.

The economy has caused people to lose their jobs and insurance. Many are afraid of missing work or being unable to make payments for medical treatment. Consequently, patients are waiting longer to see a doctor and coming in sicker.

“The acuity level has risen,” Hicks said.

He estimates that 30 percent of his patients have no insurance.

“Every day we see people who don’t get the treatment they need because of money,” Hicks said.

“They can’t afford it,” Rachmel added.

Yuba Docs offers uninsured patients a 20 percent discount on the cost of services.

Yuba Docs was the first medical facility in the county to use electronic medical records. They also use electronic prescriptions, encourage recycling and opt for cloth gowns in lieu of paper ones.

The clinic is part of the County Disaster Response Team.

“In the event of a major disaster, we are on board with the county,” said billing manager Carrie Prince. Employees will be prepared to receive status alerts and treat people if an emergency were to strike.

Hicks stressed that while Yuba Docs is a medical care establishment, it is a locally owned business that must break even.

“She’s mom and I’m pop,” Hicks joked.

The couple passionately supports health care reform and say the current system is broken.

“It’s expensive,” Rachmel said, noting the cost to provide health insurance for Yuba Docs’ employees went up 42 percent this year.

Emergency medicine provides Hicks with a flexible schedule, allowing him to do environmental and community work. Moving to Nevada County in 1979, he was founding president of the South Yuba River Citizens League and remains on the board.

He is scheduled to participate in the Mad as Hell Doctors’ tour, an educational health care panel scheduled at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City.

Rachmel explains there is a shortage of family practice physicians and Yuba Docs help fill the gap.

“When people feel sick, (and) they can’t get in to their doctor, they go to Yuba Docs.”

To contact Reader Liaison Angela Diaz, e-mail adiaz@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4203.

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