Dr. Miguel Martinez, standing in the reception area of the new Lahey Health Urgent Care facility — which is poised to open in the Gloucester Crossing shopping complex — says the similar facility in Danvers has been "incredibly busy" since it opened Jan. 2, already attracting 20-30 patients per day.
Beginning Friday, he expects the new Gloucester urgent care center to do the same.
"I think the flu epidemic is going to be driving it in the beginning," said Martinez, who lives in Rockport and serves as medical director for both the Danvers and Gloucester Lahey urgent care clinics. "Then, as the season changes (toward Cape Ann's busy summer), I expect it will become busier. The Danvers (facility) has very much been welcomed by the community, and we very much believe that will be the case in Gloucester, too."
Martinez was among several hospital officials and local leaders to join in Tuesday for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and a tour of the latest addition to Gloucester's health care landscape, which will fully open Friday at 8 a.m. at 301-305 Gloucester Crossing Road — across from Ace Hometown Hardware and at the far end of the building that is anchored by the Petco store.
The urgent care clinic is designed to more efficiently and quickly serve patients who have — until now — had to go to the Addison Gilbert Hospital emergency room — or leave Cape Ann — to get attention for non-emergency needs such as a simple fracture, minor injuries, severe colds, flu symptoms and illnesses that would still typically require a hospital visit.
The 3,700-square-foot facility boasts five exam rooms, an X-ray room, a lab for drawing blood and other services, and a procedure room for applying casts and suturing. It will be staffed by doctors, nurses and technicians within the Lahey network — which includes Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital — and who can also easily connect with patient records through the health system.
The new clinic will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Philip Cormier, CEO of Addison Gilbert and Beverly hospitals, reiterated that the new urgent care suite is designed to supplement and ease the strain on the Addison Gilbert emergency room — not, in any way, to set the stage for replacing it.
"We're still hearing concerns from some people that this is going to replace the (Addison Gilbert) emergency room," Cormier conceded, "but nothing could be farther from the truth."
Both he and Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken — who was among those at the brief Tuesday ceremony and tour — said the new center will enable people who have the flu or who just need a couple stitches to be seen much sooner than in the ER, which must prioritize patients based on the severity of their injuries or illnesses. Romeo Theken was also credited by Cormier for arguing the need of an urgent care clinic in Gloucester and urging Lahey to open one.
"It's our seniors who use the emergency room the most," said the mayor, who worked 15 years as a community health liaison with Addison Gilbert before becoming mayor in 2015. She continues to volunteer at the Rose Baker Senior Center. "But for them to have to wait eight hours, three hours, however much time to be seen, is just too long for them."
The urgent care center should also ease costs, both for patients through lower deductible and co-pay charges for services, and in costs to employers — including the city — the mayor noted.
Cormier also added that in addition to identifying the need for a Gloucester facility, Lahey and Addison Gilbert also found that patient "volume" would likely only support one clinic and therefore they set out to head off any competition.
On Tuesday, guests — who also included Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce CEO Ken Riehl, state lawmakers Bruce Tarr and Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Lahey Health urgent care executive director Terry Giove, Lahey Health board chairwoman Nancy Palmer, and Rebecca Imperiali, Lahey's vice president in charge of philanthropy — had to occasionally sidestep workers delivering boxes of supplies and equipment to the nurses' station and to other rooms within the center.
The facility, which holds a long-term lease for what had been space for two stores within the Gloucester Crossing building, has been developed in large part through a $975,000 grant from the Waltham-based JMR Barker Foundation. The foundation is headed by Gloucester seasonal residents Jim and Chris Barker, Imperiali noted.
"When you look at the map of where these facilities are located, they are all over the Boston area but none on Cape Ann," Jim Barker said in a statement. "It makes tremendous sense to have a local urgent care center affiliated with Addison Gilbert and Lahey. It ensures common medical records, high-quality care and strong communication with primary care physicians and the hospitals, which for much of the Cape Ann medical community means the Lahey system. It seems like such a natural way to tie everything together."
Martinez said the new facility and its staff are looking forward to opening their doors to their first patients Friday morning. The Gloucester and Danvers facilities are the first that Lahey has opened on its own under a new initiative announced last spring. This was also after Lahey took over urgent care clinics in Woburn and Wilmington through its 2014 acquisition of Winchester Hospital.
"We're ready," Martinez said Tuesday, spotlighting the procedure and X-ray rooms, just beyond the nurses' work station. "We're ready to welcome people, and to welcome the community."
Staff writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.