UH investing in Amherst facility

Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Moving primary care doctors to downtown Amherst will reduce reliance on the emergency room, University Hospitals officials say.

A 4,600-square-foot renovation is paving the way for family practices to open at the University Hospitals Amherst Health Center.

Family practice doctor Gary Dinger will move his offices from Elyria to Amherst by the end of the summer with a target date of July 14.

UH is also recruiting other general practitioners for the Cleveland Avenue facility. Talks are being finalized with one other physician now.

“This space has the potential to certainly take at least one more doctor, if not more,” said Dr. Donald Sheldon, president of UH Elyria Medical Center.

Located in the newest section of the building on its northeastern side, the space has been used in the past for reconstructive joint surgeries and obstetrics.

After being first underused and then empty for years, Sheldon said UH is now finding ways to use the space to everyone’s advantage.

The renovations signal a long-term investment in the former Amherst Hospital building, he said, addressing closure fears voiced in recent years by residents and politicians.

There’s been a nationwide trend in recent years of patients using emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment.

Introducing primary care doctors is one way UH is trying to reduce dependence on the ER as a safety net, Sheldon said: “The best way to take care of patients is not on a periodic basis where you’re taking care of urgent or unstable situations. The best way is to take constant, consistent care with monitoring over a long period of time.”

Dinger echoed that idea.

“You shouldn’t be in the emergency room for a sore throat or a sprained ankle,” he said. ER workers and space need to be reserved for people who need immediate care and general practioners should be available for routine care.

Dinger is no stranger to Amherst.

A resident of the city, he also had a practice on Cooper Foster Park Road for 14 years before moving in December to Elyria.

So when hospital officials offered to renovate a space for him in the heart of Amherst, he couldn’t pass it up.

Dinger said he enjoys providing long-term support to patients who suffer from chronic heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions that need more than sporadic care — he finds satisfaction in building relationships with patients and knowing he makes a difference in their lives.

UH also has a strategic plan to help physicians develop stronger ties with colleagues involved in research and leading-edge technology at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, according to Sheldon.

To that end, the UH Primary Care Institute has been created with Dinger as its Northwest regional director.

He will be responsible for providing leadership and guidance and developing clinical relationships with physicians who will collaborate to improve quality, patient experiences, and efficient practices.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.