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MMH walk-in clinic reducing burden on ER

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MASSENA — Less than a month after opening the walk-in clinic to deal with non-emergency cases, Massena Memorial Hospital has seen a reduction in the number of patients ending up in the hospital’s emergency room.

The walk-in clinic treated 215 patients in the two weeks following the opening of the clinic Dec. 3, and the ER treated 680 in that same time period, according to Tina Corcoran, senior director of public relations and planning at the hospital.

The figures suggest the walk-in clinic is on track to reduce the number of patients seen at the ER, one of the hospital’s goals in opening the clinic.

“We’re basically seeing the sicker patients going to the ER, and the people with (minor ailments) are going to the walk-in clinic,” hospital Chief Financial Officer Sean Curtin said. “One of the goals of the walk-in clinic is to make wait times shorter at the ER.”

In 2011, the ER treated an average of 1,659 patients per month. Based on figures from the last two weeks, the ER is on track to treat 1,360 patients in the month of December, a reduction of almost 300 patients, an 18 percent drop.

The walk-in clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It is open on holidays, with the only exception being Christmas, when the clinic will be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Ms. Corcoran said.

“We’re here to provide services for our patients in a timely manner to serve their needs,” said Joe Lamb, a physician assistant who staffs the clinic.

The walk-in clinic operates with a goal of being able to see every patient within 30 minutes of arrival. Zach Chapman, senior director of practice management, said the clinic will to be able to take in 30 patients per day while still maintaining a wait-time of 30 minutes or less.

At MMH’s board of managers meeting Dec. 17, Mr. Chapman noted the clinic has for the most part stuck to its goal, with the longest wait-times being around 40 minutes.

Ms. Corcoran noted that the walk-in clinic is in no way a substitute to the ER’s services; however, in situations where a patient has a more minor ailment, it might make more sense to utilize the walk-in clinic.

“In the ER there’s a lot that goes into a patient’s exam. Sometimes it’s quicker to go to the walk-in clinic,” she said.

MMH officials say the walk-in clinic has been well-received by the staff and the community.

“People are amazed at how quick they can get in and out” of the walk-in clinic, Ms. Corcoran said. “Our staff is loving it.”

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