News10NBC Investigates: Healthcare crisis; call your primary care doctor first

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Our local emergency rooms are overcrowded and understaffed. Depending on the time of day, urgent care centers aren’t much better. News10NBC has been investigating the health care crisis in our community for months. One simple action you can take if you need to be seen might prevent you from waiting hours for care.

James Gaden is a primary care doctor at the Kendall Medical Center in Orleans County. He’s been a rural practitioner for 30 years and his major complaint right now, “I get frustrated when I see somebody go to an urgent care center at 1 o’clock on a Monday when I could’ve seen them in the office,” he tells News10NBC, “and invariably somebody calls me three days later saying I’m not better can you just call a prescription in.”

Dr. Gaden says it’s simple.

“You should go to your primary care doctor first before you run off to an urgent care center, we still have a lot of openings in our practice and from my perspective, I know you better than somebody in an urgent care or an emergency room,” Dr. Gaden said.

He understands that for many families it’s a matter of convenience.

“Out of the need to get things done quick — people will make a decision saying ‘My arm hurts I’m going to go see the orthopedist’ and not call their primary care doctor. ‘I’m having chest pain, I’ll get into the cardiologist’ — they won’t go to see their family doctor or internist and that’s an undue burden on the specialists who are taking care of really serious problems,” Dr. Gaden said, “we can see that stuff and sort out the good, the bad and the ugly pretty easy.”

Many local family doctors, pediatricians and internists have altered their hours of operation or on-call systems so they can be more accessible to their patients.

For those who are struggling to find a primary care doctor, Dr. Gaden suggests asking your friends or family members to put in a good word with their doctor for you.

"Oftentimes you have to be persistent, I’ve had patients call our office and we’ve told them we’re not accepting new patients and they just keep calling and calling and finally I say OK — so, it’s difficult but I think what you need to do is be your own advocate you need to let people know that you need a doc and you need it now,” he said.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, stroke or you’ve experienced trauma — you should, of course, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away. In situations where you think you may have a broken bone, you’ll still likely need to go to an urgent care for an X-ray but it can’t hurt to start with a call to your primary care doctor.