Mary Washington Healthcare is entering the urgent care market with two facilities: one in medically underserved King George County and the other in the bustling area off U.S. 17 in Stafford County.
The King George clinic is scheduled to open in November in the former Community Care Clinic at 11127 Journal Parkway, off State Route 3 near King George Elementary School. Contractors are working to renovate the building, which will have an urgent care clinic, outpatient laboratory and medical imaging center with X-rays, ultrasounds and mammography services.
MWH will invest more than $1 million in the "up-fit" and equipment—and is spending about the same to build the new urgent care in Stafford, said Eric Fletcher, a senior vice president with the health care organization.
The Stafford center is under construction at 10 Stafford Lakes Parkway, near Geico, and will offer urgent care services, X-rays, an outpatient lab and the primary care practices of Dr. Carol Voss and Dr. Andrea Lough. It's expected to open in the spring.
Fletcher expects a lot of traffic at both facilities, even though they're in markedly different areas.
"You would think Stafford would be a higher volume because of the greater population, but we're hopeful, because of the need in King George, that it's well-used by the citizens of the county," he said.
Both facilities will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Six to eight physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants will rotate between the two facilities.
Urgent care centers, where patients walk in without an appointment and see whoever is available, are becoming increasingly popular with consumers who don't have a primary care physician or need treatment after hours.
The industry grew 43 percent between 2013 and 2018, from 6,100 to 8,774 facilities nationwide, according to the Urgent Care Association.
According to a survey of 2017 visits, 86 percent of patients at urgent care centers needed treatment for a specific episode, such as sore throat or a sprained ankle. Only 2 percent of them had dire conditions that required transport to an emergency department, according to the UCA.
In addition, urgent care clinics handle about 89 million patient visits a year, or more than 29 percent of all such visits in the United States, according to the website Medical Economics. It referred to a report on the $18 billion industry presented by Laurel Stoimenoff, CEO of the Urgent Care Association.
The two new clinics marks MWH's first independent foray into walk-in centers. The health care organization has two hospitals, three emergency departments and more than 40 outpatient and wellness services that stretch from Fredericksburg north to Woodbridge, south to Ladysmith and east to Montross.
MWH once partnered with NextCare, which has three clinics in the region, but that association dissolved seven years ago, Fletcher said.
Officials in both counties had sought medical facilities in underserved areas, Fletcher said. A Google search shows 14 facilities offering treatment to walk-in customers within 25 miles of Fredericksburg, and many of the red map pins are clustered near the city, west along Route 3 and on U.S. 1.
There's only one urgent care clinic in King George, in Dahlgren, and none between the Walmart at Stafford Lakes and Warrenton.
MWH expects to be in the Journal Parkway location of King George for about three years. Fletcher hopes the county's Board of Supervisors approves Villages at King George Crossroads, a mixed-use development proposed by Darell Hertenstein. MWH signed a contract with the developer last December to build a new urgent care center as part of the proposal near the county courthouse area, which also includes a variety of homes, apartments and commercial centers.
Project plans have been reviewed by King George's Community Development office and await the developer's responses, said Director Brad Hudson.
As for the Stafford facility, it's about a mile from a site where Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center proposed a free-standing emergency department in 2017. At that time, Spotsylvania hospital officials said more than one-third of the 38,300 patients served in its emergency room in 2015 lived closer to the proposed U.S. 17 facility than the hospital itself.
However, MWH already had a strong presence in Stafford; county officials supported the building of Stafford Hospital, owned by MWH, a decade ago. When Spotsylvania Regional's application came forward, Stafford's Board of Zoning Appeals disputed whether the proposed facility should be classified as a hospital or a medical clinic.
The BZA denied an appeal by Spotsylvania Regional, which eventually withdrew the application.
During a BZA meeting in March 2017, MWH officials registered their opposition to Spotsylvania's proposal in Stafford. BZA board member Heather Stefl asked: "Is your concern that they’re honing in on your territory? Is this a concern of yours or that you didn't do it first?"