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Walk-in clinic and telehealth appointments open at East Palestine Mercy Health location

A sign reads, "Welcome to historic East Palestine, Ohio. 'Where you want to be.'"
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border became the center of national attention following the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

People who live in the Mahoning Valley and need to see a cardiologist or oncologist are now able to do it from their local primary care doctor’s office.

Mercy Health has opened a walk-in clinic at its East Palestine Primary Care office on North Market Street and is making virtual specialist appointments available at its East Palestine and Sebring locations.

People in rural communities often have to travel further for appointments with medical specialists, said Dr. James Kravec, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health’s Youngstown and Lorain branches. Patients told the system they had transportation issues — including not having a car or the distance to drive was too long.

“Many times, patients tell us the comfort of going to your primary care office and having that initial conversation with your cardiologist or with your oncologist is very helpful," Kravec said.

Virtual care doesn’t work for every situation, but for certain appointments, Kravec said Mercy Health patient outcomes and satisfaction ranked high.

The Catholic health system has also expanded its East Palestine primary care office into a walk-in clinic, partly because of the demand for acute care following the train derailment in February, Kravec said.

Soil samples showed no contamination from the train derailment. But some residents say their own tests show vinyl chloride in their bodies.

Patients will also be able to make same-day appointments to see a doctor and schedule routine appointments at East Palestine Primary Care.

This helps patients who may want to see a doctor but don't want to wait a few days for an opening in their primary care doctor's schedule, said Kravec.

“They're charged the same co-pay they would be for a primary care office. This isn't an urgent care, which is higher co-pays," he said. "It’s a great option for many patients.”

Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.