St. Mary’s Healthcare Director of Primary Care and Urgent Care Heather Lopez is shown Thursday in a hallway at the new Amsterdam Family Health Center, which is set to open June 14 in Amsterdam. — ERICA MILLER/THE RECORDER
AMSTERDAM — Multiple trips to various healthcare offices spread across days or even weeks could become a thing of the past for St. Mary’s Healthcare patients when the Amsterdam Family Health Center opens in the coming weeks.
The modern new facility was constructed as a 17,000-square-foot expansion onto the Rao Outpatient Pavilion. The $6 million construction project funded by a $5.1 million state grant broke ground in the fall and will officially open on June 14.
The St. Mary’s Amsterdam Family Health Center will provide integrated care across the spectrum of physical and mental healthcare needs at one site where patients will be able to move seamlessly from a physician’s exam room to a diagnostic testing setting without leaving the building.
“We always had the vision for this campus to serve as a medical village and fulfilling this expansion is completing that goal, offering more comprehensive services accessible to our patients in one building,” said Mike Reynolds, St. Mary’s director of business operations, while at the facility on Thursday.
Existing primary care, internal medicine and pediatric practices in the city will relocate to the new space from the neighboring Memorial Campus and the Carondelet Health Center on Guy Park Avenue.
The new site will also provide integrated behavioral health services with collaborative care counselors working in tandem with primary care providers, psychiatrists and addiction professionals to provide comprehensive medical and behavioral health services.
Staff from the Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center will work at the facility to provide diabetes self-management training and medical nutrition therapy. Melissa Kopf, a registered dietician in the Diabetes Center, said bringing the various practices and specialties together will allow providers to more closely collaborate with one another on patient care.
St. Mary’s will mark its first-ever entry into the retail pharmacy industry with a new 1,400-square-foot pharmacy located at the front of the facility featuring a drive-thru option. The pharmacy will be open seven days a week with evening hours extending beyond the closing time of the urgent care center in the Rao Outpatient Pavilion to ensure patients can always access needed prescriptions.
“One of our biggest concerns with our patient populations is they don’t have access to medications, this is going to give them access to medication in this building before they go home,” Reynolds said.
The pharmacy will also address affordability concerns by offering financial assistance with copayments for income-qualified patients. Eligibility terms are still being determined.
A shared corridor between the Amsterdam Family Health Center and Rao Outpatient Pavilion will allow patients to move between the sites to go straight from a scheduled appointment to complete ordered diagnostic imaging or lab work before heading to the pharmacy to fill a prescription.
“It will all be conveniently located under one roof,” Reynolds said.
The consolidation of services will improve accessibility for the more than 8,000 patients currently served by St. Mary’s from across the region who sometimes struggle with transportation for just one visit, let alone traveling between campuses or returning multiple times to address one ailment.
“Transportation is a large barrier for some of our patients and being able to provide those services will help ensure their healthcare needs are being met,” said Heather Lopez, St. Mary’s director of primary care.
“When you go from one visit to the other visit, we all know that copays add up, so if you’re able to tackle four different things with one visit, we’re helping our patients save money as well on the cost of healthcare,” she added.
The new building features modern aesthetics in warm tones with plenty of natural light throughout common areas. The facility is easy to navigate with each of the distinct service spaces interconnected to keep providers together as part of the integrated care model.
“That really kind of old-school clinical feeling is not comforting to our patients. These lighter tones and softer texture on the floor I do think is more inviting, equally as good from an infection control perspective and obviously more aesthetically pleasing,” Reynolds said.
An outdoor healing garden located between the Rao Outpatient Pavilion and Family Health Center will provide patients a peaceful space to seek respite during a visit that will feature sculptures, benches and greenery.
The corridor connecting the two buildings will serve as a small art gallery where work from local artists will be displayed and will be available for purchase.
“Patient satisfaction is one of our goals here and anything that can make the experience of the patient better, that’s what we’re always aiming for,” Lopez said.
The new facility will be occupied by 60 existing St. Mary’s staff members and the presence of 30 exam rooms across the space could eventually allow for the creation of additional provider positions.
The consolidation of staff at the new site will free up the existing spaces they vacate for new and expanded services. One space opening up at the Memorial Campus will be converted into a new 14-bed chemical dependency unit. Options for the other available spaces are still being evaluated.
St. Mary’s is currently working with the state Department of Health on plans to introduce a walk-in mental health center that would operate like an urgent care facility with staff available on-site to meet with patients in person as needed. That new service will likely find its way to one of the freed-up areas.
“Frequently there are times where our patients are feeling down and are in need of someone to talk to,” Reynolds said. “We do have a phone line available 24/7 for them but to be able to go and see someone in person is really a valuable thing.”
Less than three weeks away from the grand opening, St. Mary’s staff are eagerly anticipating the move to the Amsterdam Family Health Center on Route 30.
“It really is going to create the opportunity for our patients to have many services under one building,” Lopez said. “Just having all of the Amsterdam primary cares and pediatrics together is really going to create a dynamic force and I’m really excited to see those individuals working together and providing care to our patients. It’s really going to be extraordinary to see.”