August 10, 2016

Should you go to the Emergency Department?

Family Medicine
General Health
Primary Care

Determining when and where to receive medical care can be a difficult decision.  This is especially challenging when you do not have health insurance.  Sometimes it seems that the only option available is the Emergency Room at the local hospital.  However, using the Emergency Room for non-emergent health issues is not only time consuming, it is also very expensive.  You may be eligible to receive primary health care at a free clinic in your area eliminating the wait and the large medical bills associated with an Emergency Room visit.

In general, symptoms that develop rapidly, over minutes to hours, and are severe should be evaluated in the Emergency Department.  Similar symptoms that develop more gradually, over days to weeks or longer, and are less severe are better evaluated in a Clinic.  Here are some more specific examples:

Go to the Emergency Department if you are experiencing:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, especially if sweating or severe weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Abrupt, severe impairment of movement or speech
  • Abrupt, severe pain in any part of the body
  • Abdominal pain that lasts more than three hours
  • Heavy bleeding from any part of the body
  • Injury that results in inability to walk or use arms or hands

Contact your Primary Care Clinic for the following:

  • Coughs, nasal congestion, sore throat
  • Chest soreness, especially if worse when coughing or when moving the arms
  • Dizziness that does not impair activity
  • Lesser impairments that develop over weeks to months
  • Less severe pain that develops gradually
  • Mild discomforts, indigestion, constipation
  • Slow bleeding that can be controlled with direct pressure
  • Injury that does not cause severe impairment

Area Free Clinics

The Rock River Free Clinic (RRFC) is located in Jefferson, WI and serves patients without health insurance who live in Jefferson County, Cambridge and Whitewater.  The RRFC is open 5 days a week and appointments can be made by calling 920-674-7442.  You may also learn more about the Rock River Free Clinic’s eligibility requirements by visiting

The Watertown Area Cares Clinic (WACC) is a free clinic serving the northern part of Jefferson County and Dodge County.  They serve persons with no health insurance and invite persons with health needs to call 920-206-7797 for an appointment to find out if they are eligible for services.  Their website is

The Open Arms Free Clinic (OAFC) is located in Elkhorn, WI and serves patients without health insurance who live in Walworth County.  New patient registration is every Wednesday from 2-7pm. doctors’ appointments are scheduled weekly for qualifying patients. OAFC offers free labs and medications on site along with primary care and specialty consults with orthopedic, cardiology, and general surgery. Although not a walk in clinic for emergencies, OAFC believes in managing chronic health conditions to allow patients to live and work healthier in their everyday life thus avoiding the emergency room from complications from things like diabetes and high blood pressure. Learn more about the Open Arms Free Clinic at or call 262-379-1401.

The Health Net Clinic (HNC) is located in Janesville, WI and serves patients in the Rock County area.  The HNC is open 4 days a week (Thursday closed) and enrollments are every Wednesday between 1:30-3:30pm.  The phone number for inquiries and questions is 608-756-4638, hablamos Español.  You may also visit their website at http://www.healthnet-rock.orgfor further information and eligibility requirements.

Primary Care is important

Primary Care Providers are trained to care for, diagnose, and treat people of all ages with a wide variety of healthcare needs. Establishing a relationship with a primary care provider is an important step in reducing the need for emergency care.  Fort HealthCare accepts a wide variety of health insurances, but you are also encouraged to call your local free clinic to determine if you are eligible.