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Medical offices plan moves, expansion in Northampton

  • <br/>Dr. Adam Garretson in an exam room at Pioneer Valley Family Practice in Northampton in 2009.<br/><br/>GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
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After 15 years at 118 Conz St., Baystate Health will move the office into about twice as much space at Northampton Crossing, a new mixed-use complex under development at the former Hill and Dale shopping plaza on King Street.

“We were just bursting at the seams,” Dr. Adam D. Garretson, the practice’s medical director, said Friday afternoon during a break from moving. “This new space is twice as large, which has allowed us to hire new providers and begin accepting new patients again.”

Meantime, Cooley Dickinson Hospital is moving ahead with plans to relocate medical practices affiliated with its hospital into significant space in the Northampton I-91 Professional Center, a two-building office park under construction off the interstate near the Clarion Hotel.

Valley Medical Group is also about to undergo a smaller expansion at its Florence office at 70 Main St., which has been cramped for years. Those plans were approved by the Planning Board this week.

Baystate relocation

Up first is Pioneer Valley Family Medicine’s move into about 22,000 square feet of space on the north end of the renovated old mall building at 325 King St.

The medical practice and accompanying laboratory will welcome patients to its new digs Tuesday afternoon. The staff in the new space will include eight providers — two more than the old space could accommodate — and 14 additional staff members, for a total of 36.

The practice has about 7,000 patients, but the space and extra staff will enable it to grow to about 10,000 patients, Garretson said.

The new site will make it easier for the practice to implement a new health care model where care is provided by a physician-led medical team. “The idea is to deliver care in a more comprehensive, proactive and accessible way,” Garretson said.

In addition to seeing patients when they are sick or have an immediate issue, the new model calls for health care providers to take a proactive role in care management. That means many things, including reaching to out to patients for follow-ups or checking in with those who haven’t been to the doctor in awhile.

Such models require additional staff and a change in the way medical offices are designed, which in many cases requires more space than a traditional office.

Garretson said the practice put a lot of thought into the physical design of the new space, paying special attention to patient privacy and comfort. Corridors for patients will be separate from corridors used by doctors and staff in an effort to cut down on the noise and “hustle and bustle” of a busy practice.

“We don’t want people to feel like they are just one of 10,000 patients,” Garretson said.

The new space features three pods, or team rooms, surrounded by exam rooms. The pods will serve as a central area of the office where providers and support staff work side-by-side, rather than having doctors work in one part of the building and staff in another.

The practice is also experimenting with a new service that Garretson believes will benefit patients. It has hired a social worker in behavioral health to assist with patients who might be struggling with a mental health issue.

The social worker will work as a member of the medical team and meet people as needed.

“For a lot of people, seeking assistance for mental health can be a really uncomfortable thing,” Garretson said. “Here we’ll address it in a regular visit.”

Pioneer Valley’s new space also includes a meeting room that it hopes to use for physician-led group appointments for patients dealing with specific issues. This room may be used by similar community groups in the future, Garretson said.

The Conz Street building that Pioneer Valley is vacating may not be available for long, according to Matt McDonough, a real estate manager who handles leasing for the ownership group.

“That building is in excellent condition,” McDonough said. “I’ve been showing it to a lot of various medical users.”

The 6,700-square-foot building is located at the corner of Conz Street and Wright Avenue, not far from Pleasant Street.

McDonough said the owners also own an adjacent lot at 3-5 Wright Ave. next to the office building that could be used for a building expansion. The owners bought the lot in 2008 shortly after a fire destroyed a house there.

Cooley Dickinson plans

Changes are also afoot for Cooley Dickinson, which intends to move Northampton Family Practice from its Carlon Drive location and Cooley Dickinson Rehabilitation Services from its Locust Street site into the main floor of the new building at 8 Atwood Drive.

The hospital also will occupy all of the space in a second, 43,000-square-foot building under construction at 22 Atwood Drive, according to Ken Vincunas, general manager and owner of Development Associates. The hospital has said it plans to house speciality physician practices, among other offerings, in the new space.

Meanwhile, Vincunas said developers of the complex off Route 5 near I-91 are close to submitting plans with the city for more buildings at the site, though he declined to say how many buildings until paperwork is filed with the city.

“The group is going to go forward on the north side where the Clarion is,” Vincunas said.

The buildings could be taken by a variety of tenants, including office, medical, hotel or restaurant uses, Vincunas said.

Valley Medical Group

Work is expected to begin soon on an expansion and interior renovation of Valley Medical Group’s 13,200-square-foot building on Main Street in Florence.

“Their practice has grown and evolved to the point that the building is super crowded,” said McDonough, who manages and is part-owner of the building through a limited liability company called Middle Hampshire Development Group.

The Planning Board on Thursday approved a major site plan for a 4,780-square-foot addition to the rear of the building. A temporary office trailer occupies the site.

Once that expansion is complete later this year, construction crews will begin the lengthy process of renovating and reconfiguring the existing building.

Changes include more exam rooms, new radiology equipment and a sprinkler system, among other upgrades, McDonough said.

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