By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Running a ranch and being a mother of four, Amanda Belcher of Dora spends lots of time juggling responsibilities.
It doesn’t help that her two younger children are at an age when they’re prone to come down with the usual array of childhood illnesses. That’s meant plenty of trips the last two years to Roosevelt General Hospital’s clinic, dealing with fevers and flus.
For Belcher, it’s even more inconvenient when her children come down with cold or flu symptoms on a Friday. It often means making a choice between waiting until Monday or a costly visit to the emergency room.
Stories like Belcher’s are a big part of the reason hospital officials say they’ve expanded clinic hours to include weekends. The clinic opened for the first time last weekend, offering services to walk-in patients.
“Working on a ranch and having four kids, we’re always here,” Belcher said Saturday while in the clinic waiting area, her two children suffering symptoms of strep throat. “(The weekend hours) make a difference of waiting to see a doctor and going to the ER.”
Hospital spokeswoman Amber Hamilton said expanding the clinic’s service has many benefits for staff and patients.
Hamilton said instead of patients having to pay higher out-of-pocket expenses for emergency room treatment, they can be seen by clinic staff and pay their usual insurance co-pay. Hamilton said expanding clinic hours will also decrease the emergency room patient load on weekends, freeing it for serious emergency situations.
“What you find is you don’t get sick when it’s at a convenient time,” Hamilton said. “It just happens, and this is important for us to be able to provide walk-in hours for that.”
Hamilton said the weekend walk-in clinic will be good for working people and children who have acute symptoms and need to see a provider, rather than wait to see their physician.
“As a mom, I don’t want to incur a charge at the ER for that care,” Hamilton said. “That’s why it was created. Our patients have been vocal that they need after-hours care and weekend hours.”
Hamilton said the administration had to recruit and train providers to make this happen. It’s a project that has been in the works for about a year. She estimates the hospital administration made at least a $20,000 investment to make it happen.
Kathy Batton, a nurse practitioner and grandmother from Lovington, is one of the weekend providers.
With 12 years of experience, Batton said she’s excited to meet people through this experience and interact with patients.
Batton said the expansion is important because it encourages people to get medical attention before their symptoms get worse.
“It lowers the anxiety for the family knowing they don’t have to wait,” Batton said. “And economically, it’s a big plus. Most ER visits are like hundreds of dollars.”
Nurse Kris Wynn is looking forward to working in the clinic atmosphere.
“I’m just excited I’ll be doing more acute care in a clinic type setting,” Wynn said. “I think that’s one of my specialties. I like to see patients and knowing that I’ve helped them. This is taking a load off of the ER.”