One of the area's largest pediatric networks is opening access to its evening office hours.
Pediatric Health Care Alliance, made the announcement about its three evening clinics this week.
Alliance offices in Carrollwood and Brandon offer evening hours seven days a week. The Wesley Chapel office offers evening hours only on weeknights, but plans are in the works to extend those hours to weekends.
Managers began considering this idea in 2008 as the economy continued its free fall.
"We just started trying to think about what's going to go on the next year," said medical director Dr. Karalee Kulek-Luzey.
"Unfortunately from an economic standpoint, more families will be under pressure to not leave jobs to take kids to the doctor."
The alliance began offering the evening hours as a convenience about five years ago.
In 2007, it expanded evening hours to its Wesley Chapel office as it eliminated them in South Tampa, citing the growth in Pasco.
Kulek-Luzey said opening the evening availability up to everyone will keep kids out of urgent care clinics and emergency rooms — which for children can sometimes mean excessive tests and exposure to more illnesses. Appointment availability for established patients will not be affected, she said.
A record of the visit and the treatment will be sent to the child's regular pediatrician for follow-up, she said. Children who don't have doctors will get referrals.
Kulek-Luzey said the alliance has enough doctors and staff to handle the extra load. The number of doctors is usually doubled on Mondays and Tuesdays, usually the busiest nights, and backups are on standby, if needed.
Doctors can choose whether to work nights so they can juggle families and personal lives.
Unlike urgent care clinics however, patients can't just walk in. Switchboards at the evening clinics open at 5:30 p.m. for appointments.
"We do this to help cut down on the wait," Kulek-Luzey said.