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SMC seeks to open primary care clinic in southern Jefferson County

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A day after Samaritan Medical Center announced that it would take over the Cape Vincent Family Health Center from Carthage Area Hospital, the Watertown hospital confirmed that it plans to add more primary care services in Jefferson County.

Spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said Thursday that Samaritan will add a primary care clinic in southern Jefferson, perhaps near Adams. As part of the its strategic plan, Ms. Kittle said, Samaritan aims to increase access to care, add primary care services and expand the Samaritan health system.

“We’re looking at property in existing buildings that’d meet our needs,” she said. “We’d like to see it happen this year.”

Ms. Kittle said Samaritan has no immediate plans to open additional primary care clinics elsewhere in Jefferson County. The hospital is looking at a clinic location near Adams, she said, because it had to look at “where our patients seeking hospital services were coming from, to offer a more convenient location.”

“A primary care (clinic) would reduce their emergency room needs that’d otherwise be handled in a primary-care setting,” Ms. Kittle said.

Carthage Area Hospital closed its community clinic in Sackets Harbor on May 2, due to lower usage of that clinic compared with the one the hospital runs 13 miles away at 10881 Route 11, Adams.

Current primary care options in southern Jefferson County include the Adams clinic or physician offices in and north of Watertown.

In 2009, the need for more primary care providers in southern Jefferson County increased after Dr. Richard A. Muller closed his primary care practice in Adams to move to Virginia. Some of Dr. Muller’s patients transferred to the existing Adams clinic.

Other primary care options for children in that area occur during the school year, when the North Country Children’s Clinic’s school-based health centers are open throughout the South Jefferson Central School District.

Meanwhile, primary care is a recurring speciality on Samaritan’s physician recruitment priority list. Due to a local, state and national primary-care provider shortage, Ms. Kittle said, Samaritan thought it was necessary to provide more of that service. Samaritan will work on the project throughout the next several months, with the hope that a new clinic might open by year’s end.

Aside from the Adams clinic and services in Watertown, the next-nearest primary care clinic location for southern Jefferson County residents would be the one Samaritan runs at 3 DeMott St., Lacona, in Oswego County. Adams is about 13 miles from Lacona.

Samaritan also operates Family Health Centers in Evans Mills, Clayton and Watertown.

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