CVS Caremark Corp. plans to open hundreds more in-store clinics as a way to provide basic medical services and help control the nation’s health care costs, the Woonsocket, R.I., company’s chief executive told a group of Boston-area business leaders Tuesday.
Larry J. Merlo said the company already operates about 600 of its MinuteClinics in CVS stores — including about 30 in Massachusetts — and wants to expand the number to 1,000 in the next few years.
But if Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has his way, none of the new MinuteClinics will be in the city.
Menino, who was in the audience at the Boston College Chief Executives’ Club of Boston luncheon at which Merlo spoke, has long opposed in-store clinics, which dispense basic medical advice and perform simple procedures, such as administering flu shots.
Supporters say they lessen the need for some visits to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, but Menino believes for-profit stores are not the appropriate place for medical care.
“MinuteClinics don’t give you a comprehensive answer to your health needs,” he said following the event at the Boston Harbor Hotel.
Despite Menino’s opposition, Merlo said he is still interested in opening MinuteClinics in Boston. “We’ll continue to work with all the right people and the mayor and his staff,” he said after his speech.
CVS Caremark is already cooperating with the city by opening a CVS store in conjunction with a new building at the Mattapan Community Health Center, he said.
During his speech, Merlo also spoke about the evolution of the US health care system, saying that it faces three overlapping challenges in the next few years: a “silver tsunami” of aging baby boomers, millions of newly insured people if the national health care overhaul survives Supreme Court scrutiny, and a projected shortage of primary care physicians.
A former pharmacist, Merlo said pharmacists and pharmacies can “extend the frontiers of health care” by complementing services offered by primary care physicians.
Afterward, Merlo said that CVS has been silent on the US health care debate, believing it can contribute to improved access, better quality, and lower costs no matter what happens in Washington, D.C.