By Yadira Betances
---- — METHUEN — Every year Holy Family Hospital conducts a survey about the health care needs of the community, seeking to understand how they can help meet them. In 2009 they identified the lack of access to primary care.
Last night, the hospital officially addressed that need. It held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Methuen Family Health Center, a joint venture between the hospital and the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.
“We have accomplished our goal by bringing high quality, cost efficient and accessible care to the needs of this population,” said Lester P. Schindel, president and chief executive officer at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen and Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill.
Robert Ingala, chief executive officer at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, said the survey revealed that Methuen needed half a dozen doctors. Ingala said many of the patients who headed to Holy Family’s emergency room did so because they didn’t have a primary care physician.
“It was natural for us to provide that at the hospital,” Ingala said. Having primary care doctors within the hospital will prevent repeated emergency room visits and hospital readmission, because patients can have access to a family physician.
Dr. Laxmi Ramesh, who has been working at Family Health Center for seven years, is medical site director for the new facility. The site has two primary care doctors, two nurse practitioners, social service workers and a full-service pharmacy.
Diane Gatchell, director of pharmacy at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, said having a drug store as part of the site will be an added benefit for the patient.
She said clinical pharmacists will be in the room with the family doctor and explain in English, Spanish or Khmer about the medications prescribed. They can also fill their prescription before leaving the clinic.
“We’ll address any problems before they’re discharged,” Gatchell said.
Hal Shea, facilities director at Holy Family, helped design the clinic in a space that was built in 1972. Shea said the area was completely gutted to make way for the 12 exam rooms, waiting area and pharmacy.
The clinic will have access to the hospital’s clinical services, from blood tests to MRIs. Steward Health Care System, the parent company of the two hospitals, paid for the renovation, while the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center took care of the furnishings, equipment and staff.
In addition to the site at Holy Family Hospital, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center opened a primary care clinic at Lawrence General Hospital last year. Lawrence General also houses the Center’s high risk obstetrics clinic. The Greater Lawrence Family Health Center also has sites at Lawrence High School and Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover.