Should a sore throat or a rash send a Veteran to the emergency department or an urgent care center? Sometimes it’s difficult to be sure. So, VA wants to make it easy by providing a clear-cut description of where to go for the health care Veterans need.
Urgent care centers, whether at a VA Health Care System or one located in a community, provide easy access to quality health care when a Veteran does not have time to wait to see a regular primary care provider or their office is closed.
If a Veteran lives close to the VA Health Care System, choosing to visit an urgent care center may be best if the illness or injury is non-life-threatening. Their medical expertise and commitment to personalized attention ensures Veterans with urgent health needs receive the very best care.
“For life-threatening emergencies, such as stroke symptoms or head trauma, they require a visit to your closest emergency department,” Dr. Mark Todd, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Salem VA Medical Center located in Salem, Virginia, said. “A minor injury or illness that does not appear to be life threatening and cannot wait until the following day should be treated at an urgent care center.”
As part of implementing the VA MISSION Act of 2018, VA started offering urgent care services to provide Veterans with greater choice and access to timely, high-quality care. To find an urgent care center, visit VA Urgent Care Locator.
When should a Veteran go to an urgent care center?
For acute symptoms such as, sinus infections, sore throats, rashes, low back pain, or urinary tract infections to treat those minor illnesses or injuries. Some other examples of non-emergent care include:
- Bee stings
- Eye infections/irritations
- Minor burns
- Minor cuts and lacerations
- Sports-related injuries
When should a Veteran go to an emergency department?
An emergency condition is one that can permanently endanger a Veteran’s life. Some examples of conditions that need emergency medical care can include:
- Heart attack symptoms (severe chest pain)
- Stroke symptoms
- Moderate to severe difficulty breathing
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Sudden, severe pain
- Head trauma
- Vomiting blood or coughing up blood
- Loss of consciousness
If a Veteran is experiencing a life-threatening injury, dial 911 immediately. Emergency department visits are necessary for true emergencies. If greater care is required, VA health care physicians will transfer Veterans directly to a hospital emergency room for further treatment.