At Chicago’s first Black-owned urgent care center, the pandemic is keeping doctors busy.
Doctors are already discussing expanding a year and a half after the clinic first opened.
Premier Urgent Care in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood isn’t just surviving; it’s prospering, as doctors continue to fill the South Side’s healthcare deficit.
They’ve had some success, but it’s also been difficult.
“A lot of people may say they have urgent care hours, but they can’t provide labs on-site,” said Dr. Michael McGee, President, and CEO of Premier Urgent Care. “They can’t provide x-rays on site. We’re sort of like a mini-ER.”
McGee founded the city’s first Black-owned, completely comprehensive urgent care center alongside emergency department doctors Reuben Rutland, a trauma surgeon, and Airron Richardson.
The doctors claimed that their presence was having an effect, but COVID-19 quickly put a stop to it.
“People who had common injuries that they would normally get checked out, they just decided to ride it out because they thought they would contract the virus just by being here,” Dr. Richardson said.
The doctors had to make changes in order to uphold their pledge to deliver great healthcare to Black. With the possibility of community hospitals closing, this was an even more essential guarantee.
They developed strict cleaning measures to keep the doors open.
They concentrated on telemedicine and digital monitoring, and they became one of only two South Side hospitals to offer the quick 15-minute COVID test.
Doctor Gregory Primus, who works with urgent care, said the epidemic exacerbated the inequities and lack of access that individuals in Black and brown communities face.
“We want to become a facility that can provide a safe open venue for not only testing but vaccinations, and so at the end of the day it hasn’t changed what we were trying to do, it’s accelerated it,” said Dr. Primus.
The doctors’ dedication to closing the gap is already paying off.
Not only does the urgent care center now see more patients than it did before the pandemic, but it has also had to double its employees.
Dr. Rutland expressed, “We want to save the world, one patient at a time.”
Youth outreach has long been a part of the practice.
In an effort to overcome the distrust of traditional medicine that some Black people still have, occupational medicine and integrative medicine have been incorporated into the urgent care’s services.
“So, we may not be as familiar with acupuncture or meditation, but we know about prayer, and we know about spiritual, and we know how those things affect our health,” said Dr. Audrey Tanksley, who practices integrative medicine.
Partnerships with local hospitals, participation in research trials, and even the addition of primary care physicians as early as next month are all in the works as these Black doctors stay committed to making a difference.
“We need to do better. We now need to be at the table. We need to know that medicine can actually save your life,” Dr. McGee continued.