Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Cooley Dickinson to expand Amherst branch to include emergency care

By Matt Kushi

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About a month ago, it was reported that the town of Amherst would be expanding the urgent care center that the Cooley Dickinson Hospital provides in its main Northampton branch to the Cooley Dickinson outpatient center in Amherst at 170 University Dr. This was reported in both the Boston Herald and this very paper itself.

Let’s think about this. This is a great move for the eastern sector of the Connecticut River in the Pioneer Valley. While it is true that there is a Cooley Dickinson Hospital building already on University Dr, it does not currently offer the urgent care services that the actual hospital in Northampton does.

            Rather, what the Cooley Dickinson Hospital building on University Dr. currently houses is services related to injuries that require MRI, X-ray and rehabilitation services concerning these injuries.

            By expanding the urgent care center services into the current Cooley Dickinson Hospital outpatient building that currently exists in Amherst, the hospital has done the Pioneer Valley a great service.

            There are many reasons as to why this expansion of services is a good idea. However, I would like to point to two general benefits in particular. One is that this expansion will benefit on communities that lie to the east of the Connecticut River in Western Mass. The other community affected by this action is the University of Massachusetts community.

            Why is this a good idea locally? The most prominent hospital in the area is Bay State Medical Center. However, that is in the heart of Springfield, which is in the southern half of the Pioneer Valley. Who provides coverage for the small towns that are situated upon the shores of the Connecticut River? Cooley Dickinson Hospital does.

            If you have been around the Pioneer Valley long enough, you know that Cooley Dickinson Hospital is located in Northampton, which is on the western banks of the Connecticut River. In order to get from the eastern shore to the western shore of the Connecticut River, one needs to cross the Calvin Coolidge Bridge between Hadley and Northampton or the Sunderland Bridge between Sunderland and South Deerfield. Unless you want to drive to Greenfield up north or Chicopee down south, these are your options.

            Usually crossing these bridges is not much of a problem, as long as you are not attempting to do so at rush hour. Additionally, ambulances have priority on the road during rush hour. However, when a life can potentially be decided in minutes and seconds, every minute and second counts. The difference between saving a person’s life who has a critical injury or condition could be taking a 10 minute ambulance ride from Sunderland to Amherst instead of a 20 minute ride to Northampton.

            Yet another benefit is that this will positively help Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. As the main hospital in the central Pioneer Valley, Cooley Dickinson Hospital receives many patients in the emergency room every day. Sometimes too much.

            Wait times in the emergency room can seem too long in any hospital. Cooley Dickinson Hospital is not an exception. As many patients will tell, the wait time in the emergency room can seem illogical and quite painful.

            By opening the urgent care center in the Cooley Dickinson Hospital facility in Amherst, some of the patients that may have had to wait their turn to be treated in the main hospital in Northampton can now be treated in Amherst. As for the main branch in Northampton, its emergency room wait times should go down. While there will not be any less emergency calls and situations, there will be more areas and places in which patients can go.

            Additionally, University Dr. extends from Route 9 through the base of the Southwest Residential Area on campus. Therefore, it is very close to campus. Having emergency care services just down the road will also aid University Health Services. As was stated in a previous article in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the Cooley Dickinson Hospital branch is not expected to compete with University Health Services.

            Where the real benefit for this urgent care services expansion comes in for UMass is with the students. If it has not been realized yet, college students often require a lot of medical care. This is due to the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of students crammed into a small section of a town. This is also because college students are usually still maturing.

            There are hundreds of health related stories that occur every day on campus for various reasons. Some are caused by excessive partying, a common exercise at every college. Occasionally, someone will try drinking their friend under the table only to succeed in drinking themselves onto a gurney. Some medical issues are caused by fights on and around campus.

            Some of these medical issues are caused by the campus in which we inhabit or just through random acts of life..If one looks, this University is located on a gently rolling hill. However, the paths that we use to navigate this hill are not so gentle. Just look and you’ll find a jig here, a jag there and a crag elsewhere. We are constantly walking up and down this hill. Sometimes we fall down this hill instead of walking down it.

            Sometimes life happens, and people get hurt in the process.

This is why it is a great idea to bring urgent care services to the Cooley Dickinson facility in Amherst. It is convenient and useful for the communities that surround it. Most important of all, it can help save lives.

Matt Kushi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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