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St. Mary Medical Center

Is it hay fever? Or the novel coronavirus?

Dignity Health hospitals in Southern California, besieged with people turning up at emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, launched on Monday, March 23, a virtual urgent care visit program, allowing people to discuss their symptoms online with a health care professional.

“Virtual urgent care visits are one way we will help patients with COVID-19 symptoms assess their options for treatment or testing,” said Julie J. Sprengel, Dignity Southwest Division president. “Virtual visits allow for timely care delivery without putting other patients or our clinicians at risk for contracting the virus.

“And while it’s not intended to replace in-person care visits,” she added, “it will help reduce patient volumes at care sites, so we can serve those who need care the most.”

To use the service, go to dignity or download the Virtual Care Anywhere smartphone application. Patients can also call 855-356-8053 and use the coupon code “COVID-19.” The service fee is $35 per visit, but that will be waived for patients who think they may be experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. After requesting a virtual care visit, providers will contact the patient once they are available, typically within 15 to 30 minutes, although high demand may result in longer wait times.

The service is on-demand only and does not accept appointments.

Health care experts recommend virtual urgent care for patients with less severe symptoms of COVID-19, such as low-grade fever, a cough or shortness of breath. That way, people with mild symptoms who are evaluated online by a medical professional can avoid interacting with others and ensure they receive the appropriate level of care.

Anyone with severe symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as a high fever or difficulty breathing, should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Call before visiting in person.

There are six Dignity Health hospitals in Southern California, including California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, Northridge Hospital Medical Center and St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, along with Community Hospital of San Bernardino and St. Bernardine Medical Center in the Inland Empire.

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