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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Emergency room at Milford Medical Center converted to urgent care facility

MILFORD – St. Joseph Hospital has announced plans to change the emergency room at Milford Medical Center into an urgent care center beginning this fall.

The change is necessary because of new health insurance payments that make emergency room care much more costly, said hospital Vice President and spokesperson Melissa Sears. ...

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MILFORD – St. Joseph Hospital has announced plans to change the emergency room at Milford Medical Center into an urgent care center beginning this fall.

The change is necessary because of new health insurance payments that make emergency room care much more costly, said hospital Vice President and spokesperson Melissa Sears.

Emergency rooms are the most expensive setting for medical care, she said, and insurance companies are providing incentives that discourage their use.

Sears said she and other officials met with medical center staff Monday to tell them the news. The hospital’s new CEO, Dr. Richard Boehler, also talked about the change at a meeting with community leaders at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley on Monday.

“I think most understand there has been a sea of change in the community’s ability to utilize the emergency room,” Sears said in a phone interview, and treatment of most of the patients who come to the emergency room can be classified as urgent care, not emergency care.

Milford Ambulance Service Director Eric Shelberg said Tuesday he has been briefed on the plans and he is “disappointed they decided to make that change.”

The change to urgent care is not part of the hospital’s renovation plans for Milford Medical Center, Sears said,

But Shelberg and other local officials say they have questions about the state Executive Council’s approval of financing for the renovations last year that seemed to hinge on a promise that the emergency room stay open.

Then-Executive Councilor David Wheeler negotiated the agreement between the hospital and the council, and said he had verbal and written assurances from David Ross, the hospital’s then-president and chief executive officer, that the Milford emergency department will stay open.

Wheeler was on the council when it held a public hearing on renovation plans for the Milford facility and also for St. Joseph’s Nashua hospital. “Certainly we have a broken promise here,” he said on Tuesday.

A hearing is required before the New Hampshire Health and Education Facilities Authority to help an institution get low-cost bonding rates. The purpose is also for Councilors to determine if the project, which involved $35 million in financing, $5.5 million of that for the Milford facility, was in the public’s best interest.

Sears said the transition will take place in October or November, and there will be no changes to the form of insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, the urgent care facility will accept.

“As a mission-driven Catholic system, we accept patients regardless of their ability to pay,” she said.

Officials will discuss with Milford community leaders the best hours for the urgent care facility to be open, she said, but most facilities are open 12 hours a day.

The emergency room is now open 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

All other services at the Milford Medical Center will continue to be offered, including physical and occupational therapy, 3-D digital mammography, X-ray, ultrasound and lab draw services. The family medicine and pediatric medicine practices on the campus will also remain in their current location, according to the hospital.

The hospital hopes to avoid layoffs, Sears said.

There are about 30 employees at the medical center and about 10 nurses in the emergency room, as well as four doctors who rotate.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or at kcleveland@nashuatelegraph.com.