Milford Medical Center switches to urgent care Sunday

MILFORD – Milford Medical Center’s emergency room is becoming an urgent care center beginning Sunday.

St. Joseph Hospital, the medical center’s owner, announced last summer that it plans to transform the Milford ER into an urgent care facility.

Urgent care facilities generally treat patients who have an injury or illness that needs immediate care but does not warrant emergency room care.

Urgent care facilities don’t take patients from an ambulance. They’re more like doctors’ offices, except they don’t require an appointment. They can treat a wide variety of conditions that don’t threaten life or limb, including cuts, sprains, simple bone fractures, flus and fevers, insect bites and infections.

The new facility will be overseen by Dr. James Martin, said hospital spokeswoman Sheila Caron.

All other services will continue to be offered – including, physical and occupational therapy, 3-D digital mammography, diagnostic imaging and on-site lab draw services. The family medicine and pediatric medicine practices on the campus will also remain in their current location.

The change will mean the end of the only free-standing emergency department in New Hampshire. The change will mean emergency crews will have to take more patients to Nashua or Manchester hospitals, Milford’s Ambulance Director Eric Schelberg told The Cabinet last summer. This will cause a longer ride for medical treatment for some patients in the Souhegan Valley.

And for people living west of Milford, in Lyndeborough or Wilton, the 24-hour emergency room in Peterborough will become the closest emergency care to home.

One reason for the change to urgent care and away from emergency room use, hospital officials say, is to lower costs for patients, because health insurance makes it much more economical to visit an urgent care center than an emergency room.

Visits to the Milford emergency room have gone down by 43 percent since 2008, with the largest decline over the last year.

“Changes in insurance coverage, increasing deductibles and higher copays have made it necessary for people to travel out of the community to access health care services,” said Dr. Rich Boehler, president and CEO of St. Joseph Hospital in a press release. “Our goal with this transition is to provide high-quality healthcare in a manner that allows more residents of the Milford region to get care in their community at a lower cost.”

Urgent care is not the only change coming. The Milford Planning Board has been reviewing plans for the medical center’s Nashua Street buildings to be replaced with a new 16,000-square-foot health care facility.

Milford Medical Center opened in 1977 using a 1920s-era building called “the barn,” which has been upgraded and expanded over the years. It will be demolished to make way for the new facility.

Milford Medical Center Urgent Care will be open 12 hours a day, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week/365 days a year, on a walk-in basis. Blood draw hours will be Monday-Friday from 7 a.m.–4 p.m. (closed from noon-1 p.m.) and Saturday 7 a.m.-noon. General Radiology will operate the same hours as urgent care.

For more information on Milford Medical Center Urgent Care, visit www.stjosephhospital.com.