BHS Opens Walk In Treatment Center At Pittsfield Price Chopper

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Nurse practitioner Linda Schermerhorn will staff the new center during the week to treat patients with minor medical conditions. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — For a lot of people, it is just a whole lot easier to go to the emergency room than trying to get an appointment with at a doctor's office for treatment of minor injuries.
However, it is significantly more expensive to do so.
Berkshire Health Systems has now partnered with Price Chopper to treat minor injuries and illnesses at a lower cost to the patient. The organization opened a walk-in care center inside the supermarket.
"The primary goal is to offer people in our community a new access point for minor injuries and illnesses," said  BHS Senior Vice President Ruth Blodgett. "We're trying to provide an alternative location for those who don't have a primary care physician."
With a reception area, waiting room, bathroom, and examination room, residents with minor issues can be seen by nurse practitioner Linda Schermerhorn, who will staff the new center.
She will be treating such medical problems like allergies, congestion, colds, ear infections, muscle pain, pink eyes or styes, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections. The center is located directly next to the store's pharmacy for prescriptions to be filled on site should the patient want to use it.
"It takes a little bit of the pressure off of the primary-care physicians when they can't get a patient in," Blodgett said.
Schermerhorn said she will assess patients and can run a few tests and ultimately prescribe antibiotics or dress a wound. However, the more serious issues still need to be taken care of at the hospital.
"It is really for the little, minor things," she said.
She saw a patient on Friday who was unable to get into her primary care until June. Schermerhorn assessed the situation and prescribed antibiotics so the problem doesn't get worse before the patient could get in. The goal is to fill those gaps in time between primary-care visits.
"I don't want to replace any primary-care physician," Schermerhorn said. "Hopefully, I can catch something at the simple stage, maybe catch an infection in the early stages, so they don't have to go to the emergency room."
Sometimes, patients aren't sure where to go and at a minimum, Schermerhorn can help direct them to the proper service. 
"I can point them in the right direction if it isn't something I can take care of," she said. 
After being treated, all of the information is compiled and sent to the hospital so other doctors can access it later. 
There has been a shortage of primary-care doctors nationally, but that is even more exasperated in the Berkshires. For many it is difficult to get an appointment and others don't even have a physician. Instead, many choose to use the emergency room for those type of issues and the new center will provide that service at a lower cost.
"It is designed specifically to be lower cost," Blodgett said. "There are retail operations across the country that are getting into walk-in care."
The emergency room is specifically designed for emergency situations so patients are often sent to the back of the line for staff to address more life-threatening conditions. When the patient does get in, the level of service is often far greater than maybe necessary for the illness, adding to the high costs.
"Emergency rooms are set up for emergencies ... It is a very high-end, comprehensive set of services," Blodgett said. "They don't need that level of care."
That is particularly helpful for those who may not have insurance, who can receive some treatment for as little as $50. For those with insurance, the co-pay will be the same as any other doctor visit instead of the emergency room co-pay. 
The Hubbard Avenue store has been undergoing a massive renovation and re-branding to known as Market 32. When planning the renovation, the company reached out to BHS about the center. 
Kathy Bryant, Price Chopper's vice president of pharmacy, said the center is a welcomed addition to the store's health and wellness offerings and the company hopes to open similar ones in as many of the Market 32 stores as possible.
"It is really about expanding our health and wellness offerings," Bryant said. "In the Market 32 stores, our goal is to expand the health and wellness platform."
Besides the pharmacy, the store often holds health events like screenings and vaccinations. Partnering with BHS helps the store boost those efforts while providing the medical care from the local organization patients are already familiar with.
"It just worked out perfectly. We all have the same goals," she said. 
Pittsfield is the third location to open a walk-in center. The other two are in New York — one in Latham and the other in Malta.
The store provides a location for BHS to "bring the care to the patients" by being a high-traffic area. The space opened on Tuesday and Schermerhorn has already been seeing patients.
"It is still central Pittsfield and is a major commercial area," Blodgett said. 
The center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. But, BHS does hope to expand that in the future.
"I want to give good, quality care and be efficient timewise," Schermerhorn said.

Tags: health & wellness,   health care,   

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