The crunch on local hospitals’ emergency rooms is prompting the opening of additional urgent care centers across the region.
St. Anthony’s Medical Center is planning a summer opening of a new urgent care center on Big Bend in Crestwood, its fourth such center. And in Rock Hill, Dr. Matt Bruckel is launching Total Access Urgent Care at the southwest corner of Manchester and McKnight.
“The area needs these kind of facilities,” said Bruckel, who is an emergency medical physician and assistant medical director at Christian Hospital. “The medical care you receive at local hospitals is outstanding, but they are overwhelmed.”
Paric Corp. will be building out the 4,100-square-foot Total Access facility, which is scheduled to open in April. Steven Feeler of Chesterfield-based Feeler Scheer Architects is the designer for the project.
The facility will include eight treatment rooms as well as X-ray and limited lab capabilities. Total Access will operate a Web-based check-in system that will allow patients to register for medical care online then be contacted via phone when a physician is available to see them. “If we have people waiting in the waiting room, we’ll take a cell phone number and call them when they can be seen,” Bruckel said. “We’ll have expectations to get patients in and out within an hour.”
He said his goal is to create a center where “customer service is put back into medical care.” Bruckel is financing the launch himself but declined to disclose how much he is investing in the facility.
Just down the road, Dr. Irwin Plisco and a group of physicians invested about $300,000 to launch Des Peres Urgent Care Center, which opened in July at 12161 Manchester Road. The 5,000-square-foot building, which formerly was an SSM Health Care medical office, includes 12 exam rooms and X-ray facilities. Plisco said business at the walk-in clinic has been “excellent” in the seven months since its opening.
Plisco, who spent 20 years as an emergency room physician at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center, said the declining number of primary care physicians has hampered the availability of outpatient care. As a result, more patients are using the emergency room for minor illnesses and injuries.
“I started looking at the number of patients coming to the emergency room that didn’t belong there, and I thought — they need more options,” he said. Plisco, who also operates an internal medicine office in north St. Louis County, retired from St. Mary’s in May to focus on Des Peres Urgent Care.
Currently under construction is St. Anthony’s fourth urgent care center, planned for 5,000 square feet in a medical office building being built at Interstate 44 and Big Bend. St. Anthony’s first urgent care office opened in 2001, and the hospital currently operates centers in Arnold, Fenton and Lemay.
Demand at the existing centers has increased significantly in the past few years, according to Mike Anderson, director of urgent care for St. Anthony’s. Last year, the three centers treated more than 90,000 patients.
“We’ve been able to take pressure off the emergency department and allow them to see the nature of visits that they should see,” he said.
St. Anthony’s typically invests about $500,000 to open a new urgent care center, Anderson said. He said the hospital had been looking for opportunities in the Crestwood/Kirkwood area for some time before deciding on the Big Bend location.
“With St. Joseph’s leaving and no emergency room there in the immediate area, it’s a good opportunity for us to serve the community,” Anderson said, referring to SSM Health Care-St. Louis’ plan to close SSM St. Joseph Hospital of Kirkwood upon the completion of the SSM St. Clare Health Center currently being built in Fenton.
St. Anthony’s Big Bend Urgent Care will be competing with St. Luke’s Urgent Care in Kirkwood, which St. Luke’s Hospital opened in October at 455 S. Kirkwood Road in the Woodbine Center. It is St. Luke’s fifth urgent care center, in addition to locations on Clarkson Road and in Fenton, Weldon Spring and WingHaven.