Closing in on its first anniversary, the Park Avenue Medical Center in Trumbull is still in full expansion mode.
The 200,000-square-foot medical office and outpatient campus of Yale-New Haven Health and Bridgeport Hospital at 5520 Park Ave. has added or is in the process of adding several new services and medical specialists, working to maintain what officials say is a 98 percent patient satisfaction rate — and awaiting the return of the taco truck.
“We opened on May 5 last year, Cinco de Mayo, and so we had a little themed celebration,” said Gina L. Calder, vice president for ambulatory services at Bridgeport Hospital, who oversaw the planning and occupancy of PAMC. “And we had a taco truck that everybody was raving about. We may have to get the truck back this year.”
The Park Avenue Medical Center eschews the antiseptic, strictly business approach at some medical facilities in favor of a light and airy quality expressed by open expanses with large seating areas, themed artwork on each floor and, as one of its central elements, a garden surrounded by trees, cascading water and seasonal flowers that is open year-round.
Named The Norma Pfriem Healing Garden and is accessed from the Smilow Cancer Care Center, the flowering garden underscores a line in a piece of PAMC’s literature: “It doesn’t feel like a hospital, and that’s the point.”
Its location — near the Merritt Parkway Exit 47 interchange, essentially on the Trumbull-Bridgeport border with the Fairfield-Easton border across the street on Park Avenue — was a critical component when the hospital began looking for a suitable site for an outpatient medical center, Calder said. When it opened last year, the PAMC’s offerings included an outpatient antenatal testing center, laboratory draw station, diagnostic radiology services, an expanded Norma Pfriem Breast Center, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital pediatric specialty center and affiliated physician offices.
“But we were careful about leaving plenty of room for expansion,” Calder noted. “We listened to our physicians and patients to determine the kinds of services we needed to add.” Thus were interventional radiology and outpatient rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy and new medical specialists in such areas as gastroenterology and colorectal surgery added over the past year.
Paying strict attention to physician and patient feedback, Calder said suggestions about adding services are reviewed by a panel and judged according to demand as well as available personnel and equipment either on-site or easily transferable from Bridgeport Hospital.
“We don’t want to inconvenience people living near here by having them trek up to New Haven for procedures if we can do them here,” Calder said.
In late March the center added a comprehensive weight loss program. The medical team, led by Dr. Wajahat Mehal, director of the Yale Metabolic Health and Weight Loss Program, works with each patient’s primary care physician or referring specialist to identify weight loss goals and design a personalized care plan for safe and successful weight loss.
Also aimed at convenience is the center’s available specialty physician space, wherein a rotating cast of specialists book an office for particular dates and hours. Referrals for blood draws and other tests or to another specialist can usually be done on the spot.
The specialists’ schedules are posted daily on whiteboards, which are being replaced by LCD bulletin boards being installed to provide both information on a more timely basis and clearer directions for patients.
“That’s one of the problems we ran into,” Calder said. “People sometimes find it difficult to navigate around here and find where they want to go.”
Another challenge was getting the word out about PAMC’s existence. Although the center recorded nearly 17,000 patient visits through March, Calder said that figure was slightly less than had been anticipated.
“We opened in May, when people were maybe focusing on the end of school and summer vacations,” she noted. “So we were more active than we’d expected in terms of raising awareness about being here and what we offer and making connections with other physicians outside of the Yale-New Haven network.”
The center also held its first major community wellness event on March 12, a free daylong health and wellness expo that included a showcase for the Pfriem Breast Center’s David and Eunice Bigelow Integrative Medicine and Support Services program, which includes massage, yoga, meditation, Pilates, and psychiatry. Calder said the event drew some 300 people.