Cottage Health announced the opening of a new urgent care center in Santa Maria, the third Cottage Urgent Care facility to open recently. Cottage plans to open seven more centers in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties in the near future, for a total of 10 new urgent cares
in the tri-county area.
Taryn O’Connell, administrative director of Cottage Health Urgent Care, said that the new centers aim to fill a need for medical providers in the community.
“Looking at the population up and down the Central Coast and the number of urgent cares open, we identified that there was a need to add more access to this quick, primary care type of service,” she said.
PHOTO COURTESY OF COTTAGE HEALTH
QUICK AND EASY A new Cottage Health Urgent Care center in Santa Maria aims to provide service in 45 minutes and offers fixed rate pricing.
O’Connell said that Cottage’s goal with the new centers is to offer easily accessible and affordable medical service for patients.
“For us, that looks like having our locations in retail settings, so that people see us on their daily errands and know where we are and how to get there,” she said. “We also have a goal of serving patients within 45 minutes on average, so it’s a really quick and efficient experience.”
The new center also offers fixed pricing.
“Whether you have insurance and it’s your co-pay that you’re paying, or you’re paying our self-pay rate of $189, that covers every test and procedure that you’ll have throughout the duration of your visit,” O’Connell explained. “If you need an X-ray, or you need a lab test done on-site, things like that don’t generate an additional charge.”
The Cottage Urgent Care facilities utilize translation technology to ensure language accessibility to all patients. The Santa Maria center also employs Spanish-speaking team members.
O’Connell spoke about what makes visiting an urgent care—rather than a specialist or the emergency room—the right choice.
“We’re really wanting to serve minor, acute medical issues,” she said. “That could be a minor laceration, a break or a sprain, a urinary tract infection, a sore throat.”
For patients identified as having more chronic, long-term medical issues, O’Connell added that the urgent care centers can help connect people with local primary care or specialist physicians in the community. She acknowledged that there is a primary care shortage on the Central Coast.
“It can be very challenging for people to access a primary care provider,” O'Connell said. “I think for people who are in a generally healthy demographic, utilizing an urgent care whenever they have an issue is totally appropriate.”
A 2017 report from UC San Francisco
cites that California’s demand for primary care providers will likely exceed the supply by 2030, with a potential shortfall of 4,700 clinicians as soon as 2025. The report adds that the most acute shortages will be felt in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Southern Border areas “due to the uneven distribution of care across the state.”
According to urgentmednetwork.com, which operates urgent care facilities across Southern California, urgent care facilities serve a unique purpose from primary care doctors. The website states
that urgent care is “a great option when there is a non-life-threatening but still time-sensitive medical issue that occurs outside of a primary care physician’s operating hours and cannot wait days for an appointment.”
The benefits of establishing a spot in a primary care office, Urgent Med Network adds, is that these physicians tend to “have a longstanding relationship with their patients” and be “more attuned to their specific medical needs.”
“I think there’s really value in both,” O’Connell said of the two options. “But certainly because of that shortage, we do want to help supplement and offer a quick, easy option that’s very appropriate for many patients.”
The new Santa Maria center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily. ∆