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New London - For many years, whenever Ryan Morth of New London needed routine medical care, he would go to a converted house at 276 Montauk Ave. to see Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Bruce Patterson.
But on Wednesday, Morth met with Patterson in the new medical office building at 194 Howard St. opened by Lawrence + Memorial Hospital on April 14. Patterson is one of about 10 doctors and APRNs in the building thus far, the first of three waves that will bring up to 50 primary care providers and specialists to the building. A blood-drawing laboratory that had been in the Shaw's Cove office complex has also relocated to the new building, near a new walk-in clinic on the first floor that is open six days a week.
"I was excited to try this out," said Morth, as medical assistant Lauren Silva wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm. "It's definitely an upgrade from the other office. It was in an old house. It's nice coming somewhere totally new."
L+M purchased the 48,330-square-foot, three-story building, formerly occupied by Pfizer Inc., for $2.5 million in 2012, and spent $13 million to renovate it into an up-to-date, efficient center for L+M Medical Group, the physician practice arm of L+M, said Pamela Kane, vice president for physician practice management.
"A lot of the doctors moving in here were in small, cottage-type houses," Kane said, as she led a tour of the new building, past the centralized check-in and surgical scheduling offices. "One of our goals in doing this was to reduce operating costs and gain efficiency by having our providers together, and to have more care coordination. Patients can now come and have their primary care and cardiac appointments on the same day in this building."
Along with primary care and internal medicine practices, the building will house 11 speciality practices: obstetrics and gynecology; behavioral medicine; cardiology; interventional cardiology; physiatry; pain management; neurology; general surgery; infectious disease; hand surgery; and sleep medicine. Also moving in is the Joslin Diabetes Center, which had been in the main hospital.
Dr. Anthony Carter, internal medicine specialist and medical director of the L+M Medical Group, said new offices are roomy and modern compared to the "cramped, outdated" offices he and the other doctors moved from, even if the new space sacrifices some of the intimacy of the converted houses. All but one of the former offices were being leased from other owners by the doctors, and several now have "for sale" signs.
"All the feedback we've gotten so far from patients has been positive," Carter said.
About 70 people work in the building, Kane said. With parking for about 150 cars, and a central location just six-tenths of a mile from the main hospital, the Howard Street building is an ideal facility, she said. Unlike many of the old offices, the building is fully accessible to the handicapped, with large rooms equipped with exam tables that can more easily accommodate patients who are obese or wheelchair-bound, she added. With each of the doctors in the building meeting with 15 to 20 patients per day, plus patients coming to the blood lab and walk-in center, the new building will be a hub of activity by the time all the offices are occupied on May 19.
"We'll see hundreds of patients a day here," she said.