ConvenientMD, a New Hampshire chain of urgent care clinics, will open its first two Maine locations in the next two weeks.

One clinic will start seeing patients in downtown Westbrook on Thursday. The second will open in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood in two weeks. They will treat anything from an insect bite to broken bones, and the company says its goal is to get patients in and out the door in under an hour.

ConvenientMD is the latest provider to offer the urgent care model in Maine.

There are at least nine walk-in clinics already operating in Greater Portland. Mercy Hospital has Mercy Express Care locations in Portland, Westbrook, Gorham, Windham and Yarmouth. Maine Medical Center also runs Brighton FirstCare in Portland.

Private companies also operate in this area. Texas-based giant Concentra has five locations in Maine: South Portland, Lewiston, Norway, Augusta and Bangor. U.S. HealthWorks operates in South Portland and Brunswick. The most recent addition is ClearChoiceMD in Scarborough.

Larry Clifford, executive director of Maine Quality Counts, a nonprofit health care advocacy group, said the trend in urgent care centers has to do with the demand for accessible health care.

“Primary care providers are really under the gun when it comes to demands for their time and their practices,” Clifford said. “They do their best to see as many patients as they can, but it isn’t enough. For working families, having increased access to urgent care is probably part of the solution.”

There were nearly 7,400 urgent care centers in the United States in 2016, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Urgent Care Association of America. The association reported 92 percent of patients waited less than 30 minutes in 2015, and 90 percent were in and out in under an hour. Almost all urgent care centers have seen an increase in the number of patients in recent years.

Clifford said the increase of urgent care centers might level off soon in Maine because the state is not experiencing the same population growth as other parts of the country.

“Urgent care is a great resource for working families and families with children, and we’re not seeing a lot of exponential growth in that area,” he said.

Peter Michaud, associate general counsel at Maine Medical Association, said these clinics meet a need in the health care industry.

“It’s always good for a patient to have a medical home where the physicians and other practitioners are familiar with the patient and the patient’s history,” Michaud said. “But urgent care clinics can give exactly what they say. When somebody has an immediate need, that’s a good place to go.”

Started in 2012, ConvenientMD is a private company that operates nine clinics in New Hampshire. This is their first expansion into another state.

Ben Collins, executive director of ConvenientMD, described Maine as “a natural fit” for what he called a one-stop solution for patients. “There was a very high demand for what we offer,” he said.

The Westbrook ConvenientMD is located at 950 Main St. on the former site of the Maine Rubber Co. Torn down in 2013, that building was long considered a barrier for downtown development. The Portland ConvenientMD will open at 191 Marginal Way on Dec. 14. Collins said the company is still looking at other locations in Maine, but he declined to say more about those sites.

An urgent care clinic isn’t the right place to go for a life-threatening event like a heart attack or a stroke. Collins also said that a ConvenientMD clinic is not designed to take the place of primary care providers, and they will communicate with a patient’s doctors after a visit to the clinic.

Still, Collins said she feels ConvenientMD can quickly and affordably treat 75 to 80 percent of the people who go to an emergency room.

“It’s more challenging for patients to access their primary care provider, which has led to more patients entering into an ER for a non-life threatening injury or illness,” Collins said.

The list of services on the company’s website includes treatment for colds, flu, and ear infections, as well as cuts, fractures, sprains and dislocations. They can also provide stitches, immunizations, sports physicals and EKGs. The clinics will include technology for X-rays and an on-site lab, and patients at the clinics will be able to fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy.

They will accept most insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid. In most cases, a patient would only be responsible for the cost of a co-pay. Collins said a person who does not have insurance would generally pay about $150 for a visit. ConvenientMD clinics in Maine will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will be closed two days during the year — Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Westbrook clinic will host an open house Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

filed under: