Five Star Urgent Care plans to nearly double its clinic footprint by the end of next year as part of a rapid expansion into this area, across upstate New York and outside the state.
The chain has 19 locations throughout upstate New York, according to its website. Four are in Western New York, but none is in Erie County and the closest is in Niagara Falls.
The company plans to open 15 additional locations by the end of 2019, including five in Erie County and two in the Chicago area, said its founder, Dr. John Radford.
"There continues to be a shortage of primary care doctors and access for people," said Radford, who practiced emergency medicine before founding Five Star in 2012.
Five Star's first location was in Chemung County, and the chain grew in the Southern Tier and in Central New York initially.
Radford founded his own billing company to keep those services in-house. He also started an occupational medicine company to provide health, wellness and testing services to employers and their workers, operating out of his Five Star Urgent Care clinics. The company has a 20th location, in Syracuse, that provides occupational medicine but not urgent care.
Five Star had for years stayed away from Erie and Niagara counties because of the strong presence of MASH Urgent Care and WNY Immediate Care, among other companies.
Radford's first foray into Buffalo Niagara was Five Star Family Care, which opened in 2015 in Depew. It had the extended hours of an urgent care clinic, but billed at the lower rate of a primary care visit – not an urgent care or ER visit.
Radford converted the location to a standard urgent care clinic before closing it, with an eye toward opening a new Five Star clinic in a better location in Cheektowaga at Union Road and Walden Avenue. The Depew staff is now working at the chain's Niagara Falls location but will move to Cheektowaga when it opens, and Five Star will hire new employees for Niagara Falls, Radford said.
That's one of five locations Five Star plans to open in Erie County over the next 15 months. In addition to Cheektowaga, they include sites in Amherst, Hamburg, West Seneca and on Elmwood Avenue in North Buffalo.
Radford said company officials identified underserved sections where they thought urgent care clinics would succeed.
For example, Radford, who grew up in Lackawanna, said residents of that city have to travel to Orchard Park for urgent care. That's why Five Star plans to open a location in West Seneca that would be more convenient for people in Lackawanna and South Buffalo.
"We just studied the market more," Radford said.
In Amherst, Five Star wants to build a 3,500-square-foot, single-story medical building on a 0.62-acre vacant parcel at 3921 Harlem Road, near the intersection with Kensington Avenue and Wehrle Drive served by the double roundabouts. The Amherst Planning Board must approve Five Star's site plan and will hold a public hearing on the project at its Sept. 20 meeting.
Radford and his team launched a telemedicine company, 247 OnlineCare, in early 2016. The technology allows patients using a mobile app to connect remotely with a doctor or other medical professional for an on-screen “visit.” That company remains in operation, Radford said.