Medical care takes wing via private Miami International Airport walk-in clinic
By Ashley D. Torres
Miami International Airport has raised the bar for medical care with a walk-in clinic that has served nearly 300 patients this year.
A privately-owned clinic in the South Terminal by the Concourse H checkpoint, Airport MD opened in January to provide airport employees and travelers with medical services a step above a first-aid clinic.
With a growing number of urgent care centers nationwide, said Airport MD President Jim Whitten, he felt an airport clinic would be logical to provide vaccines, travel health services, urgent care, routine medical care, prescriptions and health education.
With available space, roughly 35,000 employees and 33.9 million passengers in 2009, Miami's size and space attracted the first Airport MD location. In March, the company opened its second at Las Vegas's McCarran International Airport.
The Miami clinic consists of two exam rooms and a staff of two doctors, four nurse practitioners, medics and a licensed vocational nurse who all work in Miami-Dade hospitals. It's open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The concept of an airport-based clinic is fairly new but, Mr. Whitten said, he'd like to expand to major airports nationwide and predicts every airport will have a clinic or pharmacy within five years.
"We are raising the bar into medical care at the airports," said Francisco Medina-Mejia, M.D., the clinic's chief medical director.
Travelers and employees can buy an annual Airport MD care card for $25. The membership card provides patients with free blood pressure checks, visits without co-pays and discounts on flu shots and other vaccines.
Most commonly treated at the clinic are fevers, urinary tract infections, bronchitis and asthma. Lacerations and other major injuries are less common, although Airport MD physicians placed stitches in 10 patients this year.
The clinic is equipped with supplies for children and adults, an EKG machine to track heart activity, $8,000 worth of vaccines and an AED machine, which saved the life of a European man who went into cardiac arrest in the clinic.
Airport MD, Dr. Medina said, serves "a unique need that I think financially will be self-sustained."
Prices vary. The clinic, considered an urgent care visit, accepts most medical insurance. It's not a Medicaid or Medicare provider but, Dr. Medina said, individuals can pay for services and then seek reimbursement.
Airport MD also is geared to collaborate with the airport's rescue unit and security in event of a medical threat.
The clinic has met its challenges, Dr. Medina said, including people from countries with socialized care assuming service is free. Communicating with those who don't speak English, Spanish or Portuguese has challenged staff to provide health care services through hand signals.
Nonetheless, the future of Airport MD is growth, with a possible third location at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Mr. Whitten said, and continuing to build the brand.
"We hope it grows little by little," Dr. Medina said, "and we hope to educate employees and travelers."
Details: (305) 869-4076.