By Gayle Fee
Photos Courtesy Manchester Medical Center
As a Manchester native, Dr. Janel Kittredge knows it has not always been easy to get access to a doctor here, especially when residents or visitors need one the most. “Manchester has grown a lot over the past few years, but an urgent or emergency medical situation requires traveling up to an hour north or south to an emergency room,” she said. “And even if you are established with a doctor in the area, it’s difficult to get an immediate appointment if you need one.” So Kittredge and her husband, Dr. Thomas Sterling, decided to do something about it, and this spring their Manchester Medical Center will open its doors at 34 Bonnet Street, providing walk-in care for emergency and non-emergency medical needs.
“When we moved back here 10 years ago, we saw the difficulty people had getting to see doctors when they needed to,” Kittredge said. “We were always fielding calls from family and friends who had illnesses or injuries and we took care of them as best we could. But the more we saw, the more we realized how much the community needed a walk-in medical facility,” she continued. “So we thought, ‘We’re local, we’re raising four kids here, this is our community, and we have the capabilities and skills to do this.’ So that’s what we decided to do.” Sterling said the couple’s main motivation for the new facility was “to be able to give back to the community the way it has given back to us.”
“At some point in everyone’s life, they will need to see a doctor,” he said, “and when you need it, medical care is super important.” Town Manager John O’Keefe said the new clinic has the potential to serve some 15,000 to 20,000 residents in the area from Arlington to Danby as well as thousands of visitors. “This fills a need we have been talking about at town hall since I got here 12 years ago,” he said. “People are really excited about it. Everybody has a story about suffering some kind of injury and sitting in the emergency room for an endless period of time.” Reducing the number of trips to hospital emergency rooms will take off some pressure for local rescue squads as well, according to Manchester EMT Liz Oakes. “Often patients will call an ambulance to be transported to a higher-level facility where they don’t necessarily have to be, but that’s all that’s available,” she said. “And during cold and flu season we really hate to see people, especially our elderly patients, spending hours in the ER being exposed to every kind of germ.”
Oakes, the mother of two boys 10 and 12, said the clinic also is a game changer for local parents. “It absolutely will give families more peace of mind,” she said, “especially when you’ve got kids who are active and constantly getting into something.” Kittredge and Sterling, who met during their medical training in Michigan and married while doing their residencies in Ohio, are both board-certified emergency medicine physicians. A Burr and Burton Academy graduate, Kittredge currently serves as medical director at the Stratton Mountain Urgent Care at the Carlos Otis Clinic and has a small private aesthetics practice. Sterling practices emergency medicine at several Massachusetts hospitals and also serves as a flight physician in the Vermont Air National Guard. But once the clinic is open, it will become their primary focus. “Tom and Janel are wonderful doctors and wonderful people,” said Carolyn Blitz, president of Mountain Media LLC. “They care about their patients and this community. We are so fortunate that they have had the vision and determination to create the Manchester Medical Center.” Paul W. Carroccio, president of the Manchester Business
Association, said having the clinic within walking distance to downtown homes and businesses will be a boon to the town center. “It will bring more people into downtown who are going to do things, buy meals, and go shopping,” he said. “More traffic is always good for the business community.” Carroccio said the downtown clinic also fits right into the development vision promoted by both the town and the state: focusing population and businesses in the downtown villages while preserving the outlying fields and farms. Plans call for the medical center to have a physician on duty seven days a week, and the clinic will be able to manage “truly anything that walks through the door,” Kittredge said. “It basically comes down to any time someone says ‘I need to see a doctor,’” she explained. “Broken bones. Lacerations. Fever. Needing immunizations. Physical exams. There’s nothing we can’t handle. Most important, we have physicians evaluating and treating patients, each with over 10 years of emergency medicine experience.” In addition to the doctors, the staff will include medical assistants, paramedics, technicians, and office personnel. The facility will be equipped with a real-time lab, so that most blood work will be completed during the patient’s visit. There also will be on-site X-ray and ultrasound equipment and a state-of-the-art electronic medical records system. Everyone will be seen, regardless of whether they have health insurance or difficulty paying, Kittredge said, and the couple has started the nonprofit Manchester Medical Center Foundation to raise funds to help defray the cost of providing those services as well as to provide health education and drug and STD prevention. “It’s meant a lot to me to be able to come home and take care of my family, my friends, their parents, and their kids,” Kittredge said. “I’m very proud to be from this area and to be able to do this. It has taken a long time but we didn’t want to rush it. We wanted to do it right and after all, all good things are worth waiting for.”