KITTERY – York Hospital, which is working to cut costs and improve patients’ care, plans to open a walk-in center that will handle mid-level cases in an effort to speed care for patients and save the emergency room for only the most urgent cases.

The center, to be called [email protected], will handle a range of cases such as broken bones and wounds that need stitches. The center will open in September. It also will house the Kittery Family Practice, as well as a laboratory and an X-ray center.

“It’s not for strokes or heart pain. It’s for non-emergent, non-life-threatening cases,” said Dawn Fernald, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

York Hospital is trying to tailor care to specific patients’ needs. Traditionally, patients needing serious, but not life-saving, care might visit the emergency room because they can’t get an immediate appointment with their family doctor. That clogs the emergency department and racks up costs. With a walk-in clinic to handle a variety of cases, the emergency room may see less volume, Fernald said.

“It will reduce the wait time in the ER for the true emergencies,” Fernald said.

The 22,000-square-foot facility will be unique in that it will give patients a price list for services and an expected wait time when they enter.

Treatment prices will be listed at the center and on its website, but the center will not require patients to pre-pay for services. It will bill them or their insurance companies.

A patient who visits [email protected] may see a physician, or a mid-level care provider such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, depending on the severity of the case.

The patient also will be able to get starter prescriptions, appointments for follow-up care with a specialist, if needed, and a link to a primary care provider if they lack a family doctor.

York Hospital said it has not yet determined how many workers will be at [email protected] since it’s still under development.

York Hospital has a walk-in center in Berwick, which opened in 2006, as well as an emergency center in Wells.

Earlier this week, the hospital said it will cut expenses by 3 percent, $4.8 million a year, through a range of steps such as developing a centralized appointment center, reducing contracts and supply costs, and adjusting staffing schedules to handle fluctuating patient volumes.

The [email protected] project started a year ago, before the hospital started its cost-cutting, Fernald noted, saying the effort isn’t about saving money.

Still, hospitals in Maine and nationwide are working to provide care in new ways because of pressure from insurers and other payers to contain health care costs.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

[email protected]