AUBURN — When Chris Buhrow of Sabattus called her doctor's office Monday for help with an infection, she had to hear the the answer twice.
"I said, 'What?'" Buhrow said. "'Go to Walmart?'"
A few minutes later — beneath a sign listing a wide variety of ailments — it seemed less puzzling. The $48 price covers treatments for sore throats and shingles, head lice and pinkeye, burns, bites and bladder infections.
"They took me right in," she said. "I didn't have to wait in the emergency room for two hours."
The Clinic at Walmart was created as a means of increasing access to medicine, said Jennifer Radel, spokeswoman for St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.
"St. Mary's has a long history of going to the people," Radel said.
The corridor outside the clinic, which faces the registers at the front of the building, is one of the busiest spots in Lewiston-Auburn.
On Monday, St. Mary's workers celebrated the opening by handing out 1,000 ball caps with the "Clinic at Walmart" logo on them. By 3 p.m. they'd run out and began giving away water bottles along with literature on the offerings at the clinic, its prices and hours.
It is open at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday. It will close at 8 p.m. on weeknights and 6 p.m. on Saturdays. On Sunday, it will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Essentially, the clinic is the same one that operated at 15 Gracelawn Road in Auburn. It will be overseen by a doctor and features treatment by a rotating group that includes a physician assistant and two family nurse practitioners. The expenses will be covered by most insurance plans, Radel said.
The clinic will have its limits.
While a surprising number of acute problems can be treated there, anyone with trauma or severe problems is encouraged to call an emergency room. And visitors to the clinic will also be given information on choosing a primary care doctor if they don't have one.
A similar clinic operates at the Walmart in Waterville and at Walmarts in many other states, Radel said.
By midafternoon Monday, nine people had been treated, Radel said.
But she expected that would rise as people saw the prices and ease of treatment. The operators even hoped to cut down on lines at the clinic by taking a bit of technology from chain restaurants.
People will have the choice of sitting at the clinic or shopping and carrying a device that lights up and vibrates when their turn comes up.
"We think we're going to be very busy," Radel said.