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Inova opens pediatric sick clinic near Seven Corners to relieve emergency room demand

A pediatric sick clinic is now open at the Inova Cares Clinic for Children near Seven Corners (courtesy Inova)

Inova patients in the Falls Church area can now get medical attention for their sick kids without having to visit an emergency room or make an appointment.

The nonprofit health system launched a pediatric sick clinic this morning (Thursday) out of the Inova Cares Clinic for Children (6400 Arlington Blvd, Suite 50) near Seven Corners. Described as the first service of its kind in Northern Virginia, the sick clinic serves children with common but less severe symptoms of illness, such as fever or coughing.

The clinic offers similar services to an urgent care center, but since it’s in a primary care facility, the setting is more familiar to prospective patients, who are often uninsured or have Medicaid, Inova Senior Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity Karen Berube says.

“A lot of our patients might not have the resources to go to an urgent care kind of setting, and so, this would be an opportunity for them to get the…level of care they need versus having to sit in an a crowded emergency room,” Berube said.

With the staffing and capacity to assist 50 people a day, the pediatric sick clinic was designed to alleviate some of the pressure on Inova’s hospitals, whose emergency departments have been strained this winter by an especially intense wave of respiratory illnesses.

Last night, emergency room wait times ranged from no wait in Reston to nearly an hour at Inova’s Mount Vernon and Leesburg hospitals. Inova revived its face mask requirements on Jan. 4 for emergency departments, emergency care centers and urgent care centers.

Masks will likely be required at the sick clinic as well, Berube says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia is seeing high respiratory illness activity. Based on emergency department data from the week that ended Jan. 6, flu and RSV visits have declined in Fairfax County, while COVID-19 visits are rising, though hospital admission levels remain low.

Demand remains high at Inova, with hospitals reaching capacity “on several days” this season, according to Berube. She says this winter has been comparable to the previous year, when a moderate Covid surge combined with increased flu and RSV cases to create what the CDC has called a “tripledemic.”

“It was so crowded and we couldn’t even see our own kids in the clinic because we were so full with visits,” Berube recalled.

After that experience, Inova came up with the idea of a pediatric sick clinic that could siphon off some of the patients who were visiting the emergency room but didn’t actually need that level of care.

The health care system found support for the proposal from a donor who contributed the funding. The exact amount isn’t being publicized at the donor’s request.

According to Berube, the clinic features two doctors, two medical assistants, a resource nurse and front-desk staff. Only walk-in visitors are accepted, and initially, patients are limited to children who get primary care services from any of seven Inova Cares clinics.

Inova intends to eventually expand the sick clinic to any uninsured individuals, but officials want to get a better understanding of the patient volume first.

“We need to see how big the volume is for this before we can expand it,” Berube said. “So, if we fill it up right away, we won’t expand it necessarily in the near future because we would be full already. So, we just want to be able to understand volumes first and the need.”

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