By Joyce M. Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Eastern Niagara Hospital is opening the first express care facility in Niagara County this afternoon on South Transit Road.
Facility staff did practice runs on a number of express care treatment scenarios Tuesday at the ENH Ambulatory Care Center, 5875 S. Transit Road. About a half-dozen members of the hospital guild volunteered to be walk-in patients seeking help for a cut finger, a sprained ankle, symptoms of a stomach flu. One by one the walk-ins were registered, examined and treated, under the watchful eyes of Medical Director Dr. Leonard S. Franco and Nursing Manager Sue Ellen Beckman, to ensure staff and internal systems are ready for a “live” debut at 4 p.m.
Express care, also known as urgent, immediate and even “mash” care, is for people who have a minor injury or illness and, in the instant, no access to non-emergency medical assistance.
Urgent care facilities are a growing trend in medicine, and embraced ever more by health insurers, because they’re more convenient and less costly than visits to a hospital emergency room, according to ENH Chief Operating Officer David DiBacco.
From a customer service standpoint, Franco, a seasoned emergency physician, observed, express care “satisfies the demands of the public which ... has become used to instant service. People don’t want to wait hours (for help) in E.R. This fills a niche.”
Express care is not for everyone, however, Franco said repeatedly. Anyone who’s experiencing chest pain, stroke symptoms or serious injuries should head to E.R. immediately. People who walk in with serious problems will be rushed to the nearest “appropriate” hospital, usually ENH-Lockport, he said.
Eastern Niagara Hospital is wading into the express care business cautiously. With posted hours of 4 to 9 p.m. weeknights and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Franco described the facility as an “after hours clinic” for now. Hours of operation can be increased in the future if demand warrants, he said.
The express care clinic will be operated in the same space that, during daytime hours, holds ENH’s outpatient radiology center, occupational health and primary care clinics. Up to a dozen physicians, some of whom see patients in primary care clinic, will staff the express care clinic on a rotating basis. Development of the latter has led to five new full-time-equivalent jobs being created, for three nurses and two radiology technicians, DiBacco said.
T-shirts emblazoned with the ENH Express Care logo will be given to the clinic’s first 500 walk-in customers, hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Moore said.
ENH’s proposed four-suite ambulatory surgery center at 5875 S. Transit Road is still in development, according to DiBacco. The state conditionally approved the proposal in 2011 but has yet to issue final approval.