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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Health officials to consider revising retail clinic rules

By Felicia Mello, Globe Correspondent

State health officials said they would consider revising proposed rules to allow the opening of medical clinics in retail stores in response to concerns raised by doctors groups at a public hearing today.

Physicians testified that the regulations did not do enough to prevent infections at the clinics or to ensure that patients receive consistent medical treatment from providers who know their histories. Pediatricians said the clinics should not be allowed to treat children under 2 years old, to avoid confusion with immunization records.

The state Department of Public Health developed the rules after the pharmacy chain CVS asked for permission to open up to 30 "MinuteClinics" in the Boston area. Nurse practitioners in the clinics would provide rapid care for minor ailments such as bladder infections and poison ivy.

Regulators also heard from nurse practitioners and a patient who supported the clinics.

"We received a good deal of thoughtful testimony both in favor and in opposition to the regulations, and those that were opposed made very helpful suggestions on how to make the regulations better," Paul Dreyer, director of the department's Bureau of Quality Assurance and Control, said after the hearing. He said department staff would look at setting a minimum age for clinic patients and requiring clinics to answer after-hours phone calls.

The state Public Health Council could vote on the rules as early as November.

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