June 19, 2008

Two Madison ShopKo Stores to Feature Medical Clinics

By David Wahlberg, The Wisconsin State Journal

Jun. 19--Medical clinics will open this fall in two ShopKo stores in Madison, as the city joins a national trend of retail stores offering basic care to walk-in patients who have sore throats, flu symptoms or other routine ailments.

The FastCare clinics, to open in mid-October at the ShopKo stores near East Towne Mall and West Towne Mall, will be run by Meriter Health Services, Meriter spokeswoman Mae Knowles said Wednesday.

The clinics will charge a flat fee of about $45, which patients must pay up front, and insurance can be billed, Knowles said.

Staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the clinics will treat such ailments as sore throats, earaches, sinus infections, urinary tract infections, flu and cold symptoms and insect bites, said Dr. Geoff Priest, Meriter's chief medical officer.

The clinics also will offer school and camp physicals, some immunizations and limited lab services, such as throat cultures and certain blood and urine tests, Knowles said.

People with more serious medical problems will be directed to emergency rooms or other appropriate facilities.

Knowles said the clinics will be open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., later than most regular clinics.

"This will give people another access point for care," Knowles said. "Kids seem to come down with those ear infections and sore throats right when (regular) clinics close."

The clinics will be beneficial to the community but raise some concerns, said Dr. Alan Schwartzstein, a board member of the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians. He is also with Dean Health System, which operates clinics not far from the ShopKo sites, as does UW Health.

"Anything that makes it easier for people to get necessary health care is good," Schwartzstein said.

But he said the physicals performed at retail clinics "could be problematic" because the health-care providers won't be able to thoroughly review patients' immunization histories as is done during physicals at regular clinics.

"That's where you start treading on risky territory," he said.

ShopKo opened its first clinics two years ago in Green Bay, where the company is based. They are run by Bellin Health, of Green Bay.

Ken Berndt, Bellin's director of business development, said 13 ShopKo stores now have FastCare clinics -- in Wisconsin, Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Rochester, Minn. Local health systems operate the clinics.

Other clinics will open soon in Beaver Dam and Sussex, Berndt said.

Aurora Health Care operates 19 QuickCare clinics inside Wal-Marts, Piggly Wigglys and other retail stores in eastern Wisconsin.

Walgreens has clinics in 10 stores in the Milwaukee area.

Nationally, nearly 1,000 retail stores have clinics, with 1,500 expected by the end of the year, said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association in Philadelphia.

Meriter might add clinics at other ShopKo stores, Knowles said.

Meriter will open its second regular clinic next month off Highway PD in southwest Madison. Its first clinic opened four years ago in Middleton.


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