The University at Buffalo's department of family medicine recently held a grand opening for a private medical center it opened on the city's East Side.
The Jefferson Family Medicine Center, located in a former Rite Aid drugstore at 1315 Jefferson Ave., offers basic medical services in an underserved part of Buffalo.
The move arose after Kaleida Health closed the 30-year-old family medicine center in its Deaconess Center on Humboldt Parkway, said Dr. Thomas Rosenthal, chairman of the department.
The site is one of five in Western New York that the department uses to provide care and train physicians in the specialty of family medicine, which focuses on primary care.
"We thought about moving to the suburbs, but we started on the East Side in 1970 and wanted to stay in the community. We didn't want to abandon our patients," he said.
Rosenthal said he believes the new center is the first full-time primary care practice to open on the East Side in more than a decade.
It's hoped the facility will attract about 14,000 patients a year -- mainly those who used the Deaconess Center, as well as others from the new neighborhood.
One major change from the move out of Kaleida Health and into a private practice is that the doctors are operating under a business plan that can absorb only 5 percent of their patients not being able to pay.
Currently, the staff is treating uninsured patients, as well as encouraging them to enroll in Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor, Rosenthal said. But he said the center is losing money and won't be able to give out free care if finances don't eventually turn around.
Still, he expressed optimism for two reasons: The staff of five physicians and nine residents is seeing about 1,000 patients a month, and there are more insured patients in the surrounding community than many people realize.
Research by the department found that 86 percent of the 15,000 residents within 10 blocks of the office have some form of health insurance, Rosenthal said.
"The East Side is underappreciated. We ought to be able to make it," he said. "There is also a vibrancy to the East Side. It has helped that a Tops Market moved nearby."