By Neil Fater
---- — There was a time when Andover people went to Lawrence for just about everything. Now, there are residents who won’t visit the Immigrant City for anything, even their medical care.
So Lawrence General Hospital and Pentucket Medical Associates are coming to them.
The two established Merrimack Valley medical organizations are teaming up to build a $15.5 million medical center at 307 Lowell St., on land across from the Andover IRS and by the junction of Interstate 93 and Route 133. Leaders of the groups believe the Andover site will help introduce people here to the improvements made to their other local medical facilities during the last several years.
“There is so much out-migration of people who are [travelling] down to Boston for really routine care. There is very, very little that anybody needs to go to Boston for, with all the capability that we have at Lawrence General, and with Pentucket Medical and the wide variety of specialists we have,” said Dianne Anderson, president and CEO of Lawrence General. “There’s really no reason for people to go through all that inconvenience and expense.”
Lawrence General has spent millions to upgrade its hospital, even offering free valet parking. It has partnered with PMA and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to create a cardiac cath lab that it says outperforms the industry gold standard; it takes Lawrence General 64 minutes to have a balloon inflated in a patient, while the industry standard is 90 minutes.
Lawrence General has also partnered with the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center to staff its new $600,000 Pediatric Center, which has private rooms.
But many in Andover continue to travel to the Boston hospitals.
During the first quarter of this year, about 16 percent of patients staying at Lawrence General were from Andover and North Andover, neighboring towns to the city. And that’s up 2.1 percent from the previous months.
Anderson and Thomas Fazio, MD, president of Pentucket Medical, believe the new Andover Medical Center & ExpressCare will help open the door and expose more people in town to what is available locally.
“This allows them to get good medicine for relatively minor, common, nuisance problems that they have. We think that’s also a great entree into our practice, and into the Lawrence General, because there may be some hesitancy with some of the patients in that area wanted to get started with the hospital or with a physicians group,” said Fazio. “But if they go in and see its a well run organization that is doing the right things, that lessons those barriers.”
The Andover center will have both primary care and specialists, who will work at Beth Israel or the Tufts Floating Hospital some days and at the Andover center other days. Doctors who live locally may be attracted to work at the center.
“[This site] allowed us to go into an area that we thought was deficient in the number of doctors that were actually in that area anymore. That’s useful for the primary care point of view,” said Fazio. “Plus there’s this concept of urgent care - a good concept - that people can’t many times get in to see their primary care, because their schedules are such that its difficult to do that.”
The “ExpressCare” part of the center is the place to bring kids who were injured on the soccer field, or to treat things such as injuries from falls, sinus infections, fevers and back aches.
The center is expected to be completed later this year.
“Right now everyone is talking about the cost of health care,” said Anderson. “We’re all about keeping care local at an affordable, high quality that’s right in our hometown.”
LGH says its procedures can cost $10,000 less than those being done in Boston.