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DHMC Plans Centerra Pharmacy



Valley News Business Writer
Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lebanon— Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center plans to open a 24-hour pharmacy at Centerra Marketplace, which would become the only around-the-clock pharmacy in the Upper Valley and along the Interstate 89 corridor between Concord and Burlington.

The new pharmacy is slated to occupy the former Lake Sunapee Bank space at the south end of the building and — unlike the current pharmacy inside the D-H complex — will also process medication prescriptions ordered by providers not affiliated with D-H and be open to the general public.

D-H has submitted a building permit application to the Lebanon planning office outlining the $420,000 “interior fit-up” and hospital officials hope the pharmacy will be open by late winter or early spring. The Centerra pharmacy would be the first public retail pharmacy opened by the hospital, a move driven by a need for more workspace but also out of an aim to make access to a pharmacy easier for patients.

“We’re kind of bursting at the seams in our current pharmacy space,” said Linda Sawyer, director of ambulatory pharmacy at D-H. “We need a place to expand and offload some of our work, but we also want to expand services to all the public.”

One of the functions the D-H pharmacy plans to shift to the Centerra site is the pharmacy’s mail order operation, Sawyer said. The Centerra pharmacy will also relieve patients from the hassle of traffic and parking problems at the D-H complex, a longtime gripe among both visitors and employees.

Sawyer said D-H’s pharmacy fills 750 to 800 orders a day, making it the busiest in the state without a 24-hour window, and expects at least a couple of hundred orders per day will migrate over time to the Centerra location, easing the burden on the internal pharmacy staff.

“We’re hoping to eventually see about 1,000 prescriptions per week move to Centerra, although that obviously won’t happen all at once but over many months,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said customers could expect the 3,000-square-foot retail space, to be named D-H Pharmacy at Centerra, to be “something akin to the chains,” such as CVS and Walgreens, in which a full range of over-the-counter health care products would also be sold, including pain relievers, cold, flu and allergy medicine, dermatological medications, dental care, feminine hygiene products, first aid and “durable medical equipment,” such as splints and crutches.

The plans for the Centerra pharmacy come just as D-H’s pharmacy has received accreditation as “specialty pharmacy” from the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization now known as URAC that accredits many types of health care organizations, including pharmacies that serve patients with complex, chronic diseases.

The accreditation means the D-H pharmacies will be able to access highly specialized medications that can cost as much as $50,000 for the course of treatment, Sawyer said.

The accreditation is granted to relatively few pharmacies — D-H is the only pharmacy in New Hampshire to have received it, according to the commission’s website — and means that D-H patients will no longer have to go to an outside pharmacy for the highly specialized medications, D-H said.

The D-H Centerra pharmacy’s hours are expected to align with those of the Hanover Co-Op’s Centerra location (7 a.m. to 9 p.m.), with a pharmacy technician on the night shift to serve the 24-hour drive-up window.

Sawyer said the pharmacy expects to add seven to eight employees to the 36 already are on staff.

The Upper Valley has been without a 24-hour pharmacy since Walgreens in West Lebanon closed its overnight pharmacy service more than two years ago. (The pharmacy counter, the latest open in the Upper Valley, closes at 11 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends).

Although the D-H pharmacy at Centerra will carry what’s known in the trade as “sundries” — shampoo, toothpaste, and other body care products — it will not carry a broad range of household products such as paper towels, cleaning agents, greeting cards or magazines, Sawyer said, although it may offer “small gift items” around the holidays, such as boxed chocolates.

And while it might also stock a small selection of the customary bottled water and sodas, one shopping item regularly available at chain pharmacies most definitely will not be available at the D-H pharmacy, Sawyer pointed out.

“We will not have beer coolers,” she said.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.

Correction

The 24-hour pharmacy Dartmouth-Hitc hcock Medical Center plans to open at Centerra Marketplace would be the only around-the-clock pharmacy in the Upper Valley and along the Interstate 89 corridor between Concord and Burlington. An earlier version of this story misidentified the interstate.