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Paramedic to Open Urgent Care Alternative to ER

LANCASTER, Pa. — A new medical facility opening Monday in Manheim Township wants to cure some of the ills found in area hospital emergency rooms.

Following the lead of other immediate-care medical centers around the country, Urgent Care Center of Lancaster, 1821 Oregon Pike, will treat health care needs professionally, affordably and immediately, according to owner Dennis T. Penny Jr.

“Ultimately, our goal is to give quality care, with less time, less pay — the majority of the visits will be less than $100 and last less than 30 minutes,” Penny said.

Similar to clinics in York, Reading, Lebanon and Harrisburg, the 6,000-square-foot Urgent Care Center of Lancaster will treat urgent and nonurgent medical needs such as asthma attacks, cuts, fevers, earaches, sprains and fractures, Penny said.

It will offer X-ray equipment and provide limited lab work. It can do school physicals, routine shots and regular checkups, Penny said.

The center will employ a staff of about 15, including four or five general physicians, two nurse practitioners and several emergency medical technicians and nurses, Penny said.

It will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends.

Urgent Care will accept most insurance and will take qualified Medicaid and Medicare patients, Penny said.

Penny, who works as an engineer for a company that makes pacemakers and internal defibrillators, and also works as a paramedic, said he’s not competing with hospital emergency rooms.

“We’re trying to ease their pain,” Penny said. “We’re by no means in competition with an ER,” Penny said. “What we want to do is just make everyone’s life a lot easier.”

Penny, who has 25 years experience in the medical field, said he first began planning the Urgent Care Center four years ago. He said he hopes to add four more facilities in the county within two years.

He said he will keep his job in the medical equipment field and not take part in the day-to-day operation at the center.

However, he said emergency medicine remains his true love and he’ll continue working regular shifts with the Susquehanna Valley Emergency Medical Services.

Besides helping patients in need of emergency services, Penny said Urgent Care will help link patients to family doctors and offer care to patients unable to get an appointment with their regular physician.

“If you have a mom with a sick child who can’t get an appointment with her extremely busy pediatrician,” Penny said, “bring them in here, and we’ll take care of the respiratory problem, ear infection or whatever they have.”

Penny said doctors at Urgent Care will alert a patient’s regular physician about their visit and provide details of the care and medicine received. It will provide antibiotics and other medicines directly to patients, he said.

Immediate care centers have sprung up recently in national pharmacy chains such as Walgreen’s, CVS and Rite Aid, as well as 77 Wal-Mart stores in 12 states.

CVS operates nearly 500 MinuteClinics, and Rite Aid has opened health care centers at its pharmacies in California and Idaho.

Walgreen’s has opened 136 Take Care health clinics in its stores, mostly in the South and Midwest, and hopes to have 400 in-store centers by the end of 2008, according to its Web site.

Penny said national chains have gravitated to opening emergency room alternatives because they fit neatly into a retail business model.

“They don’t have the overhead as hospitals, you don’t have the overhead of the staff and therefore the average price for everything is a lot cheaper,” Penny said.

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