(Originally published by the Andover Townsman)
The first phase of the new Andover Medical Center at Interstate 93 and Route 133 is nearing completion, with an opening scheduled for next month. Its developer has already submitted plans to double the facility’s size.
Even before the new $15.5 million Andover Medical Center & Express Care facility on Lowell Street opens its doors, its developers are seeking to double its size.
Real estate developer Sal Lupoli will be presenting plans later this month to add another 30,000 square feet of medical space to the existing 30,000-square-foot facility at the junction of Interstate 93 and Route 133. The initial phase of the medical center — a partnership of Lawrence General Hospital and Pentucket Medical Associates — is preparing to start welcoming patients Nov. 17.
The new three-floor facility aims to expand the medical care available in the region with multifaceted health care services, while also filling a demand for primary-care physicians, something that Pentucket Medical CEO John Sarro said is currently a national issue.
“There’s a shortage of primary-care physicians nationwide,” Sarro said. “Doctors are not going into primary care for various reasons and it has become a real problem, so we are trying hard to attract new primary-care physicians to this area.”
Sarro said his staff has been working on a weekly basis with Lawrence General to talk about healthcare needs of the region in advance of the center’s opening.
“Together, we are putting together programs that we hope will create a seamless system of care starting from prenatal to end-of-life planning. That’s what we have been doing for a number of years,” Sarro said.
The first two floors will be occupied by Pentucket Medical Associates and include five primary-care physicians as well as an Urgent Care Center open nearly 12 hours a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
Dwayne Garland, director of ancillary services at Pentucket Medical, said urgent-care facilities are designed to treat patients who do not require the more expensive level of care provided in an emergency room.
“We are going to have two urgent-care physicians here, one of whom is an occupational medical physician. The other is a board-certified emergency room doctor,” Garland said. “It will be much more than a typical walk-in. We will be able to do suturing, splinting and X-rays in the suite.”
Officials said that the center’s opening comes at a time when people nationwide are looking for any means necessary to keep their healthcare costs down. One way of doing so is by staying local for medical visits, rather than traveling into Boston, they said.
Lawrence General will occupy the third floor of the facility, which will include obstetrics and gynecological offices and women’s digital imaging services. The digital imaging center is slated to open in mid-December following the licensing of new three-dimensional breast mammography technology offering breast tomosynthesis, an advanced type of mammogram that can better detect cancer.
With construction still under way on phase one, Lupoli is already looking ahead to the second phase of the project. The owner of the Sal’s Pizza and Salvatore’s Restaurant chains has purchased land adjacent to the 307 Lowell St. site to expand the medical facility, according to town Planning Director Paul Materazzo.
The expansion plans will go before the Planning Board on Oct. 28. If approved, Materazzo said construction of the second phase will likely commence next building season.
The opening of the center has been long-awaited. First approved in 2012, the first phase of the project was delayed for months due to land stipulations from the town regarding issues with runoff. Preparing the land for construction coupled with the harsh winter last year caused further setbacks.
Last week, considerable interior work needed to be completed for the center to open by mid-November. Still, officials expect to start moving equipment into the building on Nov. 3.
A series of private tours for public interest groups in and around Andover as well as the major companies surrounding the center, including the IRS which is located across the street, will follow. An official ribbon cutting will not be held until after the digital imaging center goes online.
Officials said advertising and the mailing of marketing material is already under way in hopes of having patients walking through the doors on opening day.