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Facility officials question need for new Forum Health center



Published: Sun, July 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



THE VINDICATOR/YOUNGSTOWN

Austintown Ambulatory has been offering urgent-care services since 1986.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

AUSTINTOWN -- Is this township big enough for two facilities that provide urgent health care?

Forum Health officials think so. But administrators at Austintown Ambulatory Healthcare Center aren't as sure.

"How could there be a need [for another facility] when there is a facility right here that does all of that?" said Joann Sulenski, administrative coordinator at Austintown Ambulatory.

Austintown Ambulatory is on state Route 46, nearly across the street from the site of Forum Health's newly renovated Austintown urgent-care facility on Ohltown Road.

About new facility: The new Forum Health facility, slated to open July 30 as Austintown Medical Park, will offer treatment for minor cuts, bruises and illnesses.

Staff at the new Forum Health facility also will have the imaging equipment to conduct X-rays, CAT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds and mammograms.

Renovations to the building cost $3.4 million. Forum Health bought the Austintown Medical Park building from a group of local doctors in 1997.

In operation: Austintown Ambulatory, meanwhile, has been operating an emergency room and an X-ray department since 1986 and providing outpatient surgery since 1981. Sulenski also said that Austintown X-ray-MRI is in the Austintown Ambulatory building and able to provide imaging services.

"Why would they think it's needed?" Sulenski said of the new Forum Health facility.

Dick Mason, Forum Health's corporate administrator for facilities, said the decision to open the new facility was based on a 1998 report from a Forum Health advisory committee. The 22 members of the committee included representatives from the Austintown schools and government, as well as local doctors.

Eight Forum Health administrators also served on the committee.

Discussing needs: Mason said the committee was created to discuss the medical needs of Austintown, North Jackson and Mineral Ridge residents. Forum Health officials wanted to use the recommendations of the committee to determine the future of the Austintown Medical Park building.

The committee's report states that Austintown residents do not have easy access to an adequate number of health-care services.

"Our mission is to address the health-care needs of the community," Mason said.

Anne Cartwright, Forum Health's corporate director of ambulatory and emergency services, added that many Austintown residents drive to Beeghly Medical Park in Boardman for treatment.

"I think there is a need here, because we do see people driving quite a distance," Cartwright said. She estimated that about 30 patients will seek treatment at Austintown Medical Park each day during the first few weeks after the new facility opens.

Not tied to strike: Mason stressed that the opening of the new medical park has nothing to do with the lengthy nurse's strike at three Forum Health facilities -- Beeghly, Northside Medical Center and Tod Children's Hospital. The strike ended Friday.

Austintown Ambulatory, meanwhile, treats between 45 and 50 patients each day, Sulenski said. She added that she believes Austintown Ambulatory's reputation in the township will give it an edge in advertising over Austintown Medical Park.

Sulenski said she is still concerned, however, about the competition from the new facility.

"I guess if they see it as competition, then that's their view," Mason said. "Our intent is to fulfill the community's needs, and that's what we're trying to do."

Austintown Medical Park's urgent-care center will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. seven days a week. The imaging center will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday.

hill@vindy.com




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