Schnucks grocery chain branches out into health care

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Schnucks supermarkets already have pharmacies, floral shops and cooking classes. The suburban St. Louis chain is now branching into health care, opening its first Schnucks Infusion Solutions facility to treat acute and chronic conditions.

Infusion therapy involves injecting medicine through a needle or catheter. It treats conditions ranging from infectious diseases to immune deficiencies to cancer.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1bV72tU ) reports that nurses, pharmacists and technicians at the center prepare infusions and administer them there or at the patients’ homes.

St. Louis-based health care consultant Michael Abrams says infusion centers are profitable because they administer expensive treatments. He says they are attractive to consumers and insurance companies because they provide outpatient care in a cost-effective way.

Schnucks Infusion Solutions accepts Medicare D, Medicaid and Illinois Public Aid.

“I can have the best of both worlds,” said Dr. David Parks, an internal medicine specialist who sees a lot of HIV patients. “So can the patient, so can the payers. It’s just way more cost-effective.”

Erma Bagley, 64, of St. Ann, stayed in the hospital for almost a year because nursing homes said they could not provide her with the magnesium she needs that her body won’t absorb. She was referred to Schnucks in September and is back home on a constant magnesium drip.

“It was a blessing because I didn’t think I was ever going to get out of (the hospital),” she said. “It feels good to be home.”

Schnucks infusion manager Dana Hampton said treatments can take up to eight hours, so patients are provided with free Internet, a flat-screen TV with cable and a snack bar. Rooms are limited to three chairs — some hospitals have up to 50 chairs for infusion services in chemotherapy or dialysis clinics.

“It’s not the typical hospital-feel atmosphere,” said Emmitt Williams, 40, of St. Louis, who was referred to Schnucks for his Crohn’s disease treatment. “They put the human touch on it.”

The national pharmacy chain Walgreens has been in the infusion business for decades, offering home services and infusion centers with 75 infusion pharmacies nationwide, 100 alternative treatment sites, and a staff of more than 1,400 infusion nurses, pharmacists, dietitians.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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