LARGO — The Diagnostic Clinic is offering a cure for the dilemma people face when they need to see a doctor after regular medical office hours.
On Thursday, the Largo facility opened an after-hours clinic open from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.
According to James Rivenbark III, chief medical officer of the multispecialty Diagnostic Clinic, it isn't the facility's first foray into evening and weekend medical care.
"Many years ago we did have an urgent care for a few years," he said. "It was pretty successful. I'm not entirely sure why we stopped having it."
The after-hours clinic will be a convenience for current Diagnostic Clinic patients, whose electronic medical records will be readily available. But it also will welcome new patients.
The after-hours clinic is not an emergency facility, but will serve the kinds of needs a regular doctor's office would. Patients can walk in, though an appointment is preferred.
One current Diagnostic Clinic patient, Nancy Noble, 71, had to use a hospital emergency room for treatment last year after medical offices closed for the day. She said she would take advantage of the extended-hours clinic if she needs it.
"This is where all of my doctors are," she said. "I like having that."
A survey was conducted by the clinic in April in which 1,417 patients participated. About 55 percent said either they or a relative had needed medical attention at least once in the past year on a weekday evening. About 58 percent had the same experience on a weekend.
When Rivenbark read the survey results he said, "We have no choice but to do this."
One physician, two patient registration staffers and two nurses will be on duty for the new service at the clinic, on Second Avenue SW. There are two part-time physicians who can fill in for the primary doctor. As a starting point, $25,000 in equipment was purchased. Rivenbark said the clinic will spend about $450,000 on salaries.
He said the Diagnostic Clinic, which has been operating for 40 years, is testing the extended-hours idea at its Largo location only. Eventually, the new service could spread to the Diagnostic Clinic's other two locations in North Pinellas.
The Diagnostic Clinic's three facilities serve about 90,000 people, or 10 percent of Pinellas County's population, but Rivenbark said he hopes the after-hours service will attract new patients.
"I don't have any doubt that it will be successful," he said. "When you are trying to create a business, what's the first thing you want to look for? An unfulfilled need."
Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.