LENOX -- Anyone seeking a primary-care physician and essential medical services will have another choice, starting Monday.
Berkshire Medical Center is opening the Lenox Family Health Center, a satellite outpatient department, at a new facility in the Lenox Commons mixed-use complex off Routes 7 and 20.
Two physicians are relocating their practices from the Hillcrest Family Health Center in Pittsfield.
The center is designed to meet the "still incredible" need for primary care in the Berkshires, said Thomas Romeo, vice president of Physician Services at Berkshire Health Systems, the hospital's parent company.
"We don't do this as competition, it's how we collectively meet the needs of the community," said Romeo. "The models for access are changing, and we're trying to change with them and predict the needs as they come forward."
He pointed out that BHS is actively recruiting doctors for other medical offices in the county, not just BMC-affiliated practices.
The center's physicians are Dr. Heather Flynn, a town resident who has 350 patients at the Hillcrest office on North Street, and Dr. Mehernosh P. Khan, whose Hillcrest practice has 1,128. All will now be transferred to the Lenox health center. Family Nurse Practitioner Raya Ariella also will be seeing patients.
The practices are open to new patients, and virtually all forms of insurance are accepted.
The center, under a long-term lease with Lenox Commons, represents a capital investment of $425,000 by BHS. The system also spends at least $1 million a year on the recruitment of primary-care physicians.
Opening next door, likely in early June, will be Lenox Plastic Surgery and Skin Care, staffed by Dr. Rodrigo Santamarina, who is relocating from BMC's Medical Arts Complex.
The family health center, in the back building of Lenox Commons, can accommodate seven providers -- four physicians and three nurse-practitioners and physicians' assistants. A third doctor is set to join the facility in September, and a fourth is to be recruited.
"It's a way for us to increase access for people because of the general shortage of primary care doctors," Romeo stressed. "More patients can be seen, and we can get them in sooner. It's an opportunity for people to get their medical needs met and, hopefully, take some of the pressure off as other physicians retire."
"We're developing a team concept," Romeo explained, so the physicians can work with nurse-practitioners and assistants. The new facility has 12 exam rooms, eight offices and an adjacent space large enough to accommodate wellness classes and educational programs.
"We offer full-scope primary care services," Flynn explained, "including preventive and wellness care, chronic-disease management and routine gynecological care."
A blood-drawing station will be available to the public.
Flynn was previously affiliated with Community Health Programs and the Fairview Hospital medical staff in Great Barrington. A native of Medway, she was trained at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and served her residency at Boston Medical Center.
She spent close to five months working at BMC during her residency. Her husband, Dr. David Flynn, is a psychiatrist at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge.
"We knew this area was a good fit for us," she said.
Khan, who was not available for an interview, attended Grant Medical College in Bombay, India, served his residency at Monsour Medical Center at Hershey University in Jeannette, Pa., and is board-certified in family practice medicine and geriatric medicine. His specialty is internal medicine.
BMC began considering a new medical practice in Lenox following the departures and retirements of numerous primary-care physicians starting two years ago.
To avoid lengthy waiting times, Romeo observed, "it was very clear that we needed to add a significant number of primary-care physicians."
According to BHS Media Relations Director Michael Leary, urgent-care patients may be able to consult a nurse-practitioner in Lenox on the same day.
Romeo said he considered Lenox Commons "a really good location because a lot of different people in town encouraged us" to open a local physicians' facility for patients from south Pittsfield to South Berkshire. "This really complements the other sites -- it's accessible, a convenient, ideal location."
"Part of our whole mission is to treat everyone, regardless of their ability to pay," Romeo emphasized. "That's why we don't close panels [practices] and why we accept all the insurers."
As is the case with BMC's other provider-based practices, he said, "it basically means we have to live up to a higher standard of regulations, both clinically and in terms of space. We have to abide by state requirements covering sizes of rooms, a whole set of guidelines."
State regulators recently approved the new center, which is a by-right use that did not require town government permits or approvals beyond a certificate of occupancy after construction was completed.
"The town has been very helpful and supportive from Day One," Romeo said. He also credited Lenox Commons owner David Ward as "very accommodating."
"We've been able to reposition the center so we specialize in medical, as well as retail and restaurants, the complete package along with our condominiums," Ward said. Lenox Commons already has five practices, including wellness, neurology, psychiatry, spine and sports medicine and obstretrics-gynecology.
"We're delighted to have BMC here, they're the cornerstone of what we're doing," he added.
The Lenox Family Health Center at 55 Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 & 20) can be reached at (413) 344-1700.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto
Lenox Family Health Center
Location: 55 Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 & 20) in Lenox Commons
Services: Primary-care services staffed by Drs. Heather Flynn and Mehernosh Kahn, relocating their practices from Hillcrest Family Health Center in Pittsfield, with Family Nurse Practitioner Raya Ariella and others. The center is open to new patients and accepts nearly all insurances.
Hours: Weekdays, with some early-morning and early-evening availability
Phone: (413) 344-1700