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    letters | patients’ choices for urgent care

    No substitute in an emergency

    URGENT CARE centers are an option for common medical problems, especially when a physician’s office is closed (“Urgent care centers in Mass. fill a gap,” Health & Wellness, Feb. 17). But they are not a substitute for emergency care, nor a solution for ER overcrowding.

    The vast majority (92 percent) of emergency patients seek care appropriately, according to a Centers for Disease Control study. A recent RAND Corporation report also found that four in five people who contacted a primary care physician or other medical provider with an acute emergency were told to go directly to the ER.

    We agree with Dr. Nathan MacDonald, head of the emergency department at Lowell General, that “we just want people to be careful.” Patients should not be expected to diagnose themselves. It sends a dangerous health message and puts them at great risk.

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    If you think you have the symptoms of a medical emergency, seek emergency care immediately.

    Dr. Alex Rosenau

    Allentown, Penn.

    The writer is president, of the American College of Emergency Physicians.