Your doctor's office is closed, but you're feeling sick. Here's what to do

When we need food, we go to a grocery store. When we need fuel, we go to a gas station. When we or someone we love is sick, we go to a doctor. But what if the office where we get our primary health care is already closed for the day or very busy with other appointments?

What is urgent care?

The health care team at Meritus Urgent Care, in the Meritus Medical Plaza at 13620 Crayton Blvd. north of Hagerstown, can help when you are “everyday-sick” or have a minor injury and your primary care practice is unavailable. Dr. Lucy Folino of Meritus Urgent Care, says sometimes patients struggle with knowing where to go.

“We are the perfect place for allergies and colds, sore throats and rashes, simple lacerations, sprains and strains,” Folino says. “We are here at 7 a.m., usually before you can even call your primary care office to request a ‘sick’ appointment and we are open until 7 p.m. after some medical offices close.”

Weekends and holidays do not close the doors at Meritus Urgent Care either, which is open to treat patients every day of the year.

In the age of COVID-19

When COVID-19 came to town, many public health measures had to be taken to keep patients and health care professionals safe yet still able to interact. Currently, “sick” and “well” hallways separate patients at Meritus Urgent Care for the continued COVID-19 response.

“Because we still remain cautious of COVID-like symptoms — many of which are similar to symptoms of colds, allergies and the flu — we continue to ask our patients to call in from their vehicles upon arrival to the practice and we register them from there, before a health care team member contacts them by phone to direct patients inside and to the appropriate treatment area,” Folino says.

When to visit the emergency department

Sometimes, patients don’t want to go to the emergency department, because they believe their symptoms or injuries are just not severe enough for treatment there, Folino says. It’s important to know that with severe pain — abdominal, chest or otherwise — a provider may need to draw blood tests or scan areas of the body with equipment that is not available on-site at Meritus Urgent Care.

“If you have severed a finger, that’s an ED visit. If you have severe, ongoing pain somewhere deep in your stomach, a CT scan may be necessary to try and find the cause. If you have chest pain, you should go or have someone take you to the emergency department,” Folino says. “Anything severe or emergent should direct you there and not to Meritus Urgent Care.”

Meritus Health offers a symptom checker online to help direct patients at

Summer is a busy season for both Meritus Urgent Care and Meritus Medical Center’s emergency department, and wait time is often a source of concern for patients and staff. However, recent data collected shows that the average time from arrival to admission and arrival to discharge at the emergency department here is either equal to or better than the averages of other hospitals in the state.

To help with wait times for everyone, patients are encouraged to find a primary care practice/provider for ongoing needs and to use Meritus Urgent Care and Meritus After Hours Pediatrics for non-emergency treatment in the evenings, on weekends and on holidays. If you are having a medical emergency, please call 911. Options and hours for all treatment along the continuum of care are available at