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Cooley Dickinson Hospital to open walk-in clinic in Amherst

Doctors from the Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s (CDH) emergency department announced finalized plans for a walk-in clinic in Amherst are underway.

In June 2010, the CDH in Northampton will open a new walk-in clinic department at 170 University Dr. in Amherst. Cooley Dickinson’s planners are hoping the clinic will create quicker medical care and provide urgent attention for Amherst residents, rather than forcing them to wait in the emergency room at CDH.

The clinic has been in planning for the past several years, and is led by Dr. R. F. Conway and Dr. Domenick Sciaturo, emergency department physicians at CDH.

Christina Trinchero of the marketing and communications department at CDH said the hospital had been examining extending their services to Amherst for some time.

“In the late 90s, Cooley Dickinson commissioned a market research study that suggested a possible need for a walk-in urgent care clinic in the Amherst area,” she said.

Trinchero explained that the expansion was designed to offer expanded health care services to people who live in the greater-Amherst area. The information to improve service was based on zip code data and towns located northeast of Amherst such as Granby and Sunderland, Mass., which lie relatively far from Northampton.

The clinic services will include urgent care treatment for minor medical emergencies such as the flu and upper respiratory illnesses, explained Trinchero. The clinic will offer expedited services for minor emergencies.

The expansion is being added onto the existing occupational health services offered at the 170 University Drive building, owned by CDH. As for the extent of constructing the facility, Trinchero said the renovations will not be too extensive.

“Cosmetic changes will be made to the space where the expanded clinic will be housed. Those changes include painting and other minor enhancements,” she said.

Services offered currently at the 170 University Drive building are MRIs, digital mammography, ultrasound X-rays, blood testing, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

CDH emphasizes that the walk-in clinic will not be for trauma-related occurrences.

“By law, the clinic is unable to accept ambulances, as the clinic is not a licensed emergency department,” said Trinchero. “Ambulances from Amherst would continue to go to Cooley Dickinson Hospital or other trauma centers as the severity of a situation might dictate. We are initiating contract discussions with local ambulance companies to ensure that if an ambulance is needed to transport a patient from the clinic to CDH or another emergency department, that those relationships are established.”

University of Massachusetts’ University Health Services (UHS) Medical Director Dr. Alan Calhoun explained that UHS was not part of the clinic expansion and serves a different focus than the clinic will.

“While UHS has a unique focus on college healthcare, CDH’s clinic, which is set to open in June, is designed to serve community residents who might otherwise seek care at the hospital’s emergency department,” said Calhoun.

The clinic’s focus is described in its title, Ambulatory Employee and Industrial Occupational Urgent Health Center. Calhoun notes that similar services are also available at a recently opened clinic in Hampshire County.

Dr. Calhoun explained that UHS will still serve most students and the CDH will reach more greater-Amherst residents.

“UHS provides greater value to students than off-campus clinics,” said Calhoun. “For example, costs not covered by primary insurance are absorbed by the student health fee, reducing students’ financial burden.”

UHS serves as a primary care component to students, where the CDH clinic will not provide primary care services. Calhoun said the services that will be offered by the CDH clinic are already offered at UHS.

Starting in June, the clinic’s hours will be from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will be staffed with physicians, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and administrative personnel.

Trinchero said those hours will not be permanent.

“After opening the clinic with these expanded services, we will assess the time and the volume of patients and then determine if we’ll expand or adjust the hours the clinic is open,” said Trinchero.

Each of the close-by clinics to the UMass campus serve a different focus.

“We do not expect to compete with University Health Services. The University offers a niche service to their students,” said Trinchero.

Chelsea Whitton can be reached at cwhitton@student.umass.edu.

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