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Clinic set to open in former Lake Placid ER

The former emergency room in Lake Placid, seen here on Wednesday, is now adorned with a Hudson Headwaters Health Network sign. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)

LAKE PLACID — A primary care health center operated by Hudson Headwaters Health Network is set to open today in the former Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center emergency room.

This health center comes almost a year after the ER closed on Aug. 20, 2023. HHHN’s primary care center received contingent approval from the state Department of Health on Sept. 13, 2023. This means that HHHN was approved by the state to submit materials to a regional office for review, after which a license can be issued. HHHN received full approval on June 18. Renovations, which HHHN said were “minimal,” began on March 18.

The health center’s services include family medicine, care management, family planning, preventative women’s health services and integrated behavioral health, according to HHHN. It will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. this summer, with hours expected to expand in the fall.

The health center will also accept same-day appointments for “acute needs” such as coughs, cold or flu, rashes, ear infections, urinary tract infections and minor injuries. It will not function as an ER or urgent care clinic; emergent injuries will still need to travel to the ER at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, as well as any EMS calls.

“As a nonprofit, Federally Qualified Health Center, our mission is to expand primary care access,” Hudson Headwaters CEO Tucker Slingerland said in a statement. “The new location in Lake Placid will be a helpful addition to the vital primary care access that has been provided by Adirondack Health, a fellow safety-net provider, and other providers for many years.”

HHHN’s status as a Federally Qualified Health Center means that it is a federally-funded nonprofit health center that accepts the Medicaid insurance used by many moderate- to low-income residents and focuses its work on underserved communities. FQHCs charge for their services on a sliding scale based on their patients’ abilities to pay. This Lake Placid health center is HHHN’s 24th in the North Country region.

The health center’s initial providers are Nurse Practitioner Danielle King, Physician Assistant Emily Monaco, Dr. Sarah Thompson and Dr. Arianne Wilson, according to HHHN. These providers also see patients at Saranac Lake Family Health, another HHHN health center. They plan to continue patient care at both locations. HHHN is still looking to hire providers in the Tri-Lakes as their health centers grow; HHHN Director of External Affairs Pamela Fisher told the Enterprise in April that the new health center was expected to create six jobs.

Adirondack Health, which owns the building, will continue to operate the other services in the facility, including its primary care practice on the second floor. HHHN and Adirondack Health share other facilities; HHHN’s Saranac Lake Family Health clinic is located inside Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, operated by Adirondack Health.

Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin told the Enterprise in April that the new HHHN health center was “great news.”

“I think it’s going to give people more choices and more accessibility to doctors and healthcare,” he said.

North Elba town Supervisor Derek Doty agreed, telling the Enterprise in April that primary care facilities are “greatly needed” in the area.

“I’m happy to see that all our medical needs seem to be met and certainly welcome Hudson Headwaters with their new venture here,” he said.

The ER in Lake Placid closed last August, citing financial challenges, low patient volumes and staffing shortages. Adirondack Health President and CEO Aaron Kramer told the Enterprise in October 2022 that Lake Placid’s ER averaged fewer than eight visits a day during the first six months of 2022. The low patient volumes translated to a $2.2 million loss for Adirondack Health, according an open letter from Adirondack Health last July.

The ER closure was met with heavy criticism from the community, especially from former Wilmington town Supervisor and EMT Roy Holzer, who worried that first responders’ live-saving work would be made even more difficult by longer travel times to the ER.

“I can tell you right now, when we had someone in cardiac arrest, you could not get to Lake Placid hospital quick enough (while) doing CPR on an individual,” he said. “So can you only imagine doing another 10 miles with someone from our neck of the woods going into full cardiac arrest?”

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that HHHN received full approval from the state Department of Health on June 18.

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