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Easthampton doctor’s office expands to meet demand



Laste modified: Tuesday, August 06, 2013
EASTHAMPTON — Manhan Internal Medicine Manager Erika Duggan said that for years she had to tell people who called the office that Dr. Mark Bigda couldn’t take on any new patients. It was information she did not like imparting.

And now, she doesn’t have to.

After completing renovations in May that doubled the size of the medical offices at 2 Mechanic St., Manhan Internal Medicine now has the space to add two more medical staff and take on new patients.

“As Easthampton grows, new patients keep coming,” Duggan said. “We got so many calls from people saying they wanted to join our practice, but we really couldn’t accommodate them until now.”

In late February, the family medical practice began work to knock down walls and expand into the neighboring unoccupied office suites. The 3,030-square-foot office now includes five more exam rooms, a waiting room that is twice the size of the old one, and a laboratory where patients can have blood work done.

Bigda and nurse practitioner Sharon Shumway continued to see patients throughout the work, but the practice has since added two new physician assistants. Kate O’Connor and Kathleen Treanor are now seeing patients under Bigda’s direction, Duggan said.

One of the main reasons Manhan Internal Medicine saw so much demand for its services is that there is a “dearth of regular doctors” now, according to Bigda.

It is well known that the decline of primary care providers has been going on over the last decade.

“There’s been a very high need. A lot of people have been going without a physician,” Bigda said in a press release. He was unavailable for an interview last week.

The practice maintains that Manhan Internal Medicine’s model of having a nurse practitioner and physician assistants working under a physician is the future of family practice.

The practice serves more than 5,000 patients over the age of 18. Duggan said it also accepts MassHealth, increasing demand for services.

Expanding size, staff and services

The increase in staffing and space will mean several changes at Manhan Internal Medicine.

The new laboratory, which will be staffed by a Holyoke Medical Center employee, means that patients will not have to drive to other hospitals or medical centers to have blood work done. Current patients can have blood drawn on a walk-in basis.

The two new medical providers will also allow the practice to hold walk-in hours from 8:30 a.m. to noon on days it is open: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. “We had a lot of patients requesting that,” Duggan said of the walk-in clinic.

Also new is an after-hours on-call service. While before patients calling for advice after business hours were referred to doctors from another practice, now a Manhan Internal Medicine medical staff member will be available to talk any time.

Duggan said the two new employees are joining a staff of 10 that includes a medical assistant for each practitioner. Because there is a medical assistant for each practitioner, patients can call and, even when their provider is busy with patients, talk to someone who knows who they are and what they need.

“We cater to patients who want more continuity of care,” she said.

Bigda has been practicing medicine in Easthampton for 20 years. The practice was called Nashawannuck Internal Medicine until Bigda changed the name in November of 2011 when Shumway joined the business, Duggan said.

Bigda’s medical degree is from the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, and he completed his residency in internal medicine at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield.

Shumway is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who has practiced in the Pioneer Valley for 15 years. She earned her degree at the University of Massachusetts and has a special interest in women’s health.

O’Connor has a master’s degree in physician assistant studies from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Regis College in Weston.

Treanor has a bachelor’s degree in physician assistant studies from Long Island University in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a second bachelor’s degree in biology from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.