LifeLong’s Urgent Care: Every Day is Unpredictable

By Elaine Herscher, Senior Editor

Let’s clear up one thing straightaway: Urgent care and immediate care are the same thing, even though some of the health centers use one or both titles.

LifeLong offers urgent care at three of its health centers: Brookside San Pablo, William Jenkins, and Pinole, and in Berkeley (Berkeley Immediate Care, or BIC) at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Herrick Campus.

The sheer volume of patients is high. Between January 2023 and February 2024, 23,000 patients have come through the doors of the four facilities. Urgent Care Services Director Wanda Morales estimates that were it not for LifeLong’s clinics, 65 percent of those patients would have ended up in emergency rooms.

At this time, all patients are walk-ins, although Wanda has plans to offer time slots for folks in the future. The centers will see any patient who walks in, including children, whether they’re affiliated with LifeLong or not. She says that LifeLong providers have seen every sort of emergency – flus, fractures, chest pains (sometimes to be stabilized before a trip to the hospital), mental health emergencies, sexually transmitted infections, eye injuries – and few you might not expect.

“The oddest thing for me in urgent care when I first started off was when people were coming in with nearly severed limbs,” she says. “We’ve had people come in with their arms completely open to the bones because of an incident with a saw.”

Wanda says that in 2015 when Doctors Hospital closed and Brookside San Pablo Urgent Care was new, providers triaged multiple incidences of severed fingers and other gruesome industrial accidents and gardening sheers mishaps, then sent the patients on to the hospital.

Injuries treated at LifeLong’s urgent care centers today are much less dramatic. “In urgent care we do minor surgeries, mostly laceration repairs, abscess incisions and drainage. We can handle a few other things, but that’s most of what we do,” says Dr. Stephen Chin, Associate Medical Director at Berkeley Immediate Care (BIC). Providers can also splint broken bones and refer patients to an orthopedist for follow-up.

Wanda, who is celebrating 23 years at LifeLong, is looking for ways to publicize LifeLong’s urgent care capability since many patients don’t know they have an alternative to the ER. And she’s initiated policies that are encouraging uniformity in what were once disparate clinics.

Even so, she says, “Every day is different. Every day is unpredictable. Some days we’ll see 22 patients at one site and some days only 10. But depending on what they come in with, it can be a hell of a day with 10 patients.”

Left to right: Dr. Eric Skoblar, Dr. Douglas Spurr, Evan Baily, PA, William Jenkins Urgent Care providers