The project includes a new main entrance and a larger patient waiting room.
AUSTINTOWN -- Austintown HealthCare Center, the area's first nonhospital, free-standing emergency room and ambulatory surgery center, has completed a 10,000 square-foot addition.
The center, at 45 N. Canfield-Niles Road (state Route 46), celebrated its 30th anniversary with the completion of the capital project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. A public open house is from 1 to 3 p.m. today.
When the center opened in 1976, it became the first nonhospital ambulatory surgery center and emergency room approved by the state.
The expansion and renovation project includes a new main entrance, an expanded patient waiting room, a dedicated transfer area for patients who may require overnight observation or hospitalization, and additional treatment rooms for more patient privacy, said James M. Conti, a health-care pioneer who developed and owns the facility and is its chief executive officer. It is managed by Conti Group Holdings.
Also part of the project is a larger area for medical records and a filing system that can handle up to 8,000 patient records. An acre of parking lot, which holds about 100 cars was developed on the 4-acre site, Conti said.
The impetus for development of the Austintown emergency room 30 years ago was the movement of people out of Youngstown to Boardman, Canfield and Austintown, where there were no emergency health services. At the time, they were all in the central city hospitals, Conti said.
In addition to the emergency room and ambulatory surgery services, the Austintown Surgery Center includes Synergy Physical Therapy, Austintown Open MRI and the company's corporate offices.
Conti, who has developed and been affiliated with numerous medical facilities in his career, maintains he was responsible "for convincing Medicare to reimburse for free-standing ambulatory surgery centers."
Back in the 1970s, the only way to get surgery was to be admitted to a hospital, Conti said.
"I put together a business plan and the idea for ambulatory surgery centers, which eliminated about 80 percent of hospital costs. The [U.S.] secretary of health and human services jumped on it," Conti said.
How it saves
The ambulatory center saves money because it doesn't have to fill beds every night. Also, if a patient goes to a hospital with chest pains, for example, hospital doctors will practice defensive medicine that requires a lot of expensive tests to rule out problems and make a diagnosis.
"We're working to combat high health-care costs by taking more time and doing personalized diagnosis instead of using a regular protocol," Conti explained. "If you take your time, as our physicians do, you can generally rule out problems without a lot of expensive tests. You do what needs to be done, but you don't use a howitzer when a pea shooter will do."
Conti has shared his ideas for containing health-care costs with other nations over the past few years.
His company has developed and/or consulted on innovative health-care plans for the governments of Sweden, Italy, France, Russia and the Cayman Islands.
Dr. Vincent Marino, an Austintown native, is medical director of the Austintown center.
Conti said Dr. Marino chose to take the emergency room position instead of going into private practice.
"He is not here to take patients away from other doctors. He works closely with family doctors when their patients come here," Conti said.
Also, Dr. Marino is cognizant that a lot of people don't have a family doctor or have insurance, and he works with patients to give them the best care possible for their dollar, Conti added.