August 01, 2019LITTLETON — In a recent conversation about the new urgent care center at Littleton Regional Hospital, Vice President Ed Duffy said, "We wanted to do it correctly. It took us eight months just to get the license."
The new LRH Urgent Care Center opened for business on July 8 and Duffy said the new facility has been bustling.
While it is located in the Physicians' Office Building and Conference Center of LRH, Duffy said there is a state law requiring urgent care centers to be licensed independently and not part of the broader hospital.
"We don't have a 'certificate of need law' in New Hampshire where the state helps plan the need for a medical facility," said Duffy. "But what the state did, wisely in our opinion, was create a law that says an urgent care facility within fifteen miles of any critical access facility must demonstrate that it will not hurt the viability of that critical access hospital by competing with it."
Duffy continued, "In the healthcare field, we are not in a free-market economy. We are heavily regulated by the government. To have another team come in and skim some of your revenue is not good."
When asked why it took the new urgent care facility eight months to receive its license, Duffy said they had to prove they would not conflict with the larger critical care facility.
While it appears confusing that the new urgent care facility is licensed independently yet still part of the larger Littleton Regional Hospital, Duffy said he believes it is a superior healthcare model when compared to urgent care facilities not located within hospitals. New staff has been hired to handle the predicted workloads.
"If needed, people can go straight to the Emergency Room," explained Duffy.
He estimates that approximately 20 percent of the people who visit urgent care facilities choose the wrong option and genuinely need emergency care.
"A lot of country hospitals have gone in this direction," he added.
Duffy said they had hoped to have the new urgent care facility open in January, but ran into remodeling delays, as well as obtaining the proper licensing.
"We only received the license a couple of weeks ago," he explained.
When asked about the construction of a potential urgent care facility on Meadow Street, Duffy said, "We are a non-profit organization and every bit of the money left over at the end of the year goes right back into improvements and maintenance. We could potentially lose services and this could mean a two million hit to our bottom line, which would be devastating."
Duffy said that LRH has had three to four studies done, one of which was conducted by a former New Hampshire Commissioner of Health and Human Services.
"It would be devastating for an outside entity to come into a community this small," he said.
The new Urgent Care Center is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no appointment needed.