Ballad Health to temporarily consolidate 6 urgent care centers due to COVID-19

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Officials with Ballad Health announced the temporary consolidation of six urgent care facilities in the region.

The facilities that will be impacted include Jonesborough, the Bristol, Va. location on Interstate 81 Exit 7, Volunteer Parkway in Bristol, Tenn., Gray, Elizabethton and Marion.

Patients who would normally go to the closed centers should redirect to one of the 11 centers remaining open:

  • Jonesborough and Elizabethton urgent care centers should defer to Johnson City Urgent care.
  • The center on Exit 7 (Bristol, Virginia) should defer to either the center in Abingdon or on State Street centers.
  • The Volunteer Parkway center should defer to the center on State Street.
  • The Gray center should defer to either Johnson City, Colonial Heights or Kingsport locations.
  • Marion should defer to the Abingdon urgent care center.

Levine said that volumes at urgent care centers across the region have seen dramatic decreases in volume, leading to the decision to consolidate services for the time being. The closures will begin on Monday, he added.

Many staff at the closing centers were included on the list of furloughs announced this week, Levine said, and others will be reassigned throughout the system.

Dr. Mark Patterson, the President of Ballad Health Medical Associates, said that these urgent care centers would reopen as volume increases.

“While experiencing catastrophic declines in the volumes we need to do this to keep our care at its highest level,” Patterson said.

In a move to expand healthcare across the region, Levine announced that the health system is expanding its telehealth services through a service he called Connected Care.

Connected Care will open the doors to a virtual Urgent Care Center, he said Friday. Visits to the virtual clinic will be billed at a flat $30 which he said includes access to a provider, a dignoses and/or assessment and prescription if needed.

“We wanted to make sure that we did everything we can to make sure that people have access,” he said. “A lot of people right now are concerned about going to the doctor, they’re concerned about going places.”

Connect Care is open to anyone, he said, and patients need only an email address and a device with a front-facing camera and microphone to use the service.

In addition, Levine announced that Ballad is growing its telehealth services – 300 primary care and specialty physicians are now available via telehealth services, and he said the program continues to expand.

Patients would pay the same amount as they would for a traditional visit, he said. Insured patients should contact their insurance providers to make sure telemedicine is covered on their plans, Levine said.

Those who qualify for Ballad’s charity program for the uninsured will be covered for telemedicine appointments too, he added.

He reported that plans are in motion to dedicate one rapid-testing analyzer each to urgent care centers in Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol. The analyzers are able to process four tests at once, and Levine said sights are focused on processing 400 tests per day with the arrival of an additional analyzer in the coming days.

“We’re trying to position ourselves to get these results to people as quickly as possible,” he said.

In other news, Levine said to expect more updates on Monday as the health system reorganizes its cost structure.

He said that conference will focus on what Ballad officials are doing at the market level to aid in the economic blow the virus is dealing to the organization.

That information will come alongside more detailed plans for the system’s remaining urgent care centers on Monday.

You can watch the entire news conference on our WJHL Facebook Page below.

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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