On Sept. 15, Berkshire Health Systems (BHS) opened a new urgent care center in Pittsfield, Mass.
The center, which will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., will treat patients with immediate health problems. The facility will include x-ray and laboratory services, examination rooms, a radiology suite and a pharmacy. It will treat injuries and illnesses such as pneumonia, minor burns, rashes, sprains and fractures, which are issues that the emergency room normally would not prioritize.
BHS decided to open the urgent care center for three main reasons, according to Michael Leary, director of media relations for BHS. By providing an alternate to emergency room visits, the urgent care center aims to reduce the cost for people seeking immediate care.
“Our urgent care is more like a physician practice model when it comes to cost, so the co-pays associated with it are much lower than going to an [emergency department],” Leary said.
The urgent care center also hopes to cut the wait time for patients with non-emergent issues and to provide a non-profit center that can use patients’ medical records to communicate with primary physicians. “That connection will not happen with a privately run, for profit center,” Leary said.
In April, BHS opened a similar walk-in center in Pittsfield to treat patients with minor issues.
“We think this is a successful model that can help people who have minor health issues but are unable to get a timely appointment with their physician, or may be out and about in the community near Price Chopper and see that it is a convenient and fast stop for them to make,” Leary said of that center.
Although the two centers are similar, the urgent care center has several additional features, including x-ray and laboratory access.
“This oftentimes is done to provide an alternative to emergency departments that are required to treat the most acute patients as priority and to alleviate the patient volume in their emergency departments that could be treated in a less acute setting,” Angie Marano, director of administrative services at the Health Center, said.
According to Marano, the center will not impact emergency protocols at the College.
“Urgent care centers are not emergency rooms and will not alter the current emergency protocols which require transport to the nearest available emergency department,” Marano said.
In the case of an emergency, the College currently sends students to North Adams or Southern Vermont Health Care in Bennington. When the North Adams Regional Hospital closed in 2014, Berkshire Medical Center opened the 24-hour satellite emergency facility in North Adams.
For less pressing issues, the College sends students to the Health Center. When the Health Center is closed, students are referred to the physician on-call who deals with urgent medical concerns that are not considered medical emergencies.
Although the College was not part of the planning process for the new Pittsfield building, Marano said, “We are participating with the Rural Health Planning Network in Northern Berkshire County on a planning grant to identify services for our North Berkshire communities.”