A new trend in medical facilities will make its debut in the Midstate this spring.

In August, the Upper Allen Township commissioners conditionally approved a final subdivision/land development plan for the Mechanicsburg Microhospital at South Market Street and Gettysburg Pike. Plans were submitted by NXT Harrisburg LLC of Addison, Texas, parent company of Nutex Health, which will operate the medical facility.

The planned development is the current site of Maggie’s Italian Ice and Custard and a nearby private home. NXT Harrisburg is in the process of purchasing and consolidating the two commercial-zone properties into a 2.93-acre lot for a new 19,722-square-foot freestanding emergency medical facility and a 3,983-square foot building suitable for leased office space, according to meeting minutes. Developers say the medical facility is expected to create around 50 jobs.

The land purchase will be finalized after developers acquire necessary permits, project engineer John Murphy, of Alpha Consulting Engineers, said this week. A developer’s news release forwarded by Murphy said a groundbreaking “is anticipated in spring 2018 if Pennsylvania Department of Health credentialing is attained.” An opening date for the facility hasn’t been determined.

The trend

Microhospitals differ from general hospitals that offer a wide variety of care within one building. Instead, mircohospitals are designed for a specific, limited range of care. “With local hospital emergency departments commonly leaving patients stranded in the waiting room for hours, there clearly is a demand for efficient emergency and observation care,” the developer’s statement reads.

"Mircohospitals are small, independent facilities that can be compared to large hospitals but at a fraction of the size," explained Antoinette Kraus, executive director of Pennsylvania Health Access Center. "They combine emergency care, primary care and inpatient care. It offers more services than urgent care, with surgical and inpatient options, but often offers fewer services than a full-scale community hospital. They are typically small with around 10 beds."

"Hypothetically, microhospitals may offer more coordinated care at lower costs than a large community hospital. It also is less expensive to build and maintain a microhospital," Kraus added.

According to beckershospitalreview.com, most microhospitals “are acute care hospitals that meet all federal and state licensing and regulatory requirements. They focus on treating low-acuity patients and providing ambulatory and emergency services, leaving more complex surgeries and service lines for their larger counterparts. They also have fewer beds.”

The Mechanicsburg Microhospital is expected to operate with the full capability of a standard emergency department and observation unit, including emergency procedures, CT scans, bedside emergency ultrasound, X-rays and a full clinical laboratory.

“This will be the first facility of its kind in this area,” Murphy said.

Kraus said that other microhospitals besides the Mechanicsburg facility are opening across the state, including one underway in Lancaster.

"I think the question is, does this make sense for the community? There are more rural, underserved communities that could benefit from a microhospital. How do we address primary care shortages in the area?" Kraus said.

Nutex Health is a consortium of licensed 24/7 stand-alone emergency facilities and hospitals with care provided by board-certified physician teams. For now, all operational Nutex facilities are based in Texas, but a map on the company’s website indicates that future are planned in 16 states besides Pennsylvania. Murphy said he doesn’t know why Nutex officials selected the Mechanicsburg area as a microhospital site but, “They look a certain parameters to determine this.”

Maggie’s moving

Developer’s plans also state that the Maggie’s Italian Ice building at 147 Gettysburg Pike and the neighboring farmhouse will be demolished to accommodate the new structures. The properties have been under the ownership of the Estate of Marlin E. Eberly and Richard J. Eberly for a number of years.

The Maggie’s site was leased to proprietors Chuck and Debbie Sterling, who said last week that they are moving their business to an existing strip mall at West Trindle and State roads in Silver Spring Township.

The new Maggie’s is slated to open in spring 2018, offering customers all the usual favorites. Although the new location won’t have drive-through service, it will offer an indoor dining area. The previous location didn’t have indoor dining provisions.

“I’d like to thank our customers who have stayed loyal customers for all these years,” Debbie Sterling said. “We’ll only be three miles away in our new location, so we hope to have all of our old customers and some new customers. We’re really excited.”

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