ATLANTIC CITY - Shore Medical Center's answer to providing low-cost immediate or emergency care to South Jersey patients has been up and running for about six months.

Shore Crucial Care is a 16-patient-room medical center off Pacific Avenue. Its doctors and nurses offer many of the treatments and services of an emergency room but with more convenience and efficiency for injured or ill patients.

For patients and their families, this means a shorter time in the center's waiting room, which employees refer to as a welcome lounge.

"We don't call it a waiting room because we don't expect you to be waiting," said spokeswoman Renay Troiano, of Pleasantville. "The average wait is less than 5 minutes and, at capacity, it's no longer than 20 minutes."

The center opened in July and celebrated its official grand opening in October. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. It accepts all major insurance.

The center is staffed to accommodate up to 60 patients per day.

The center's 16 patient and treatment rooms are laid out on the perimeter around the nursing station and lab, where patients can get blood test results back in minutes.

The center features state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, including digital X-rays, CAT-scans and ultrasound.

Staff members are certified in emergency medicine. Most come from an emergency-room background. The center treats serious injuries such as broken bones or cuts that require stitches and chronic emergencies stemming from conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Patients whose condition is determined to be life threatening can be stabilized and moved quickly to a neighboring emergency room, Troiano said.

Troiano said patient care and comfort extends to the aesthetics of the center, with nature portraits and flat-screen TVs in each of the patient rooms and a ready supply of warm blankets available for use.

No appointments are necessary, but the center does not accept patients by ambulance, since those patients are automatically treated as critical.

"We handle everything from minor medical needs to major medical needs," spokeswoman Heidi Katz said. "You can show up at our door and we can take care of you."

Katz said a lot of thought was put into siting for Shore Physicians Group's first crucial care center.

"In doing demographic studies, Atlantic City was chosen because that was where the biggest need was felt. Atlantic City was somewhat underserved in walk-in medical care," she said.

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