Healthy Tahoe: Are you aware of urgent care?

Matthew Wonnacott, MD
Dr. Matthew Wonnacott

Illness and injury often pop up without warning. A slip on ice leads to a swollen ankle, kids wake up with a sudden fever, or we may experience a blockage in the ear that’s affecting hearing. While every scenario is different, knowing where to go in a health emergency can cut down on fear and anxiety in the moment. 

In the event of a life-threatening emergency, proceed immediately to the nearest emergency department or call 911. When faced with an injury or illness that does not appear to be life threatening, but cannot wait for an appointment with your primary care provider, urgent care is a good option.

Urgent care is a medical care facility that’s meant for non-emergency situations in which a person needs medical attention, but isn’t critical enough to go to a hospital. Urgent care clinics are open on a walk-in basis, and patients are seen by a medical clinician on the same day.

Some of the top reasons to visit an urgent care include minor illness, cuts, and lacerations, orthopedic injuries including breaks, sprains, and dislocations, work injuries, concussion evaluation/ follow up, and x-rays. Urgent care centers do not treat life-threatening conditions, for which you would visit an emergency department.

Barton Urgent Care, located in Stateline just across the California-Nevada border in South Tahoe, offers some of the same services as the emergency department at Barton Memorial Hospital, such as x-rays and blood testing. Barton Urgent Care does not treat life-threatening conditions. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.

Unlike urgent care, hospital emergency departments provide medical care 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and are equipped to treat critical needs, including life- and limb-threatening situations. 

Barton Memorial Hospital is a verified Level III Trauma Center, a critical access point where patients will receive an increase in depth and speed of care. Trauma centers guarantee the resources for trauma care and the immediate availability of emergency medicine physicians, surgeons, nurses, lab and x-ray technicians, and life support equipment at all times.

Given the availability of technology and specialists that an emergency department requires, many patients find urgent care to be more affordable when seeking care for non life-threatening conditions.

While the answer is not always simple, knowing the distinction between an urgent care and your closest hospital emergency department can make a huge difference, especially during a medical emergency.

Dr. Matthew Wonnacott is chief medical officer at Barton Health. Contact your primary care provider’s office to inquire about same-day availability for health issues, or head to the nearest urgent care. Barton Urgent Care is located at the Stateline Medical Center in Stateline at 155 U.S. Highway 50. For more information including hours of operation, visit

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