A Monmouth County entrepreneur is “building” a new brand of comm unity healthcare in this state…and beyond
by Laura D.C. Kolnoski • Photos BY Amessé Photography
Healthcare, it is becoming increasingly clear, is one of America’s preeminent growth industries—a promising source of future employment and solid careers— and Rumson entrepreneur Salvatore “Sal” F. Cannizzaro is ahead of its curve, already having created some 75 new positions at the five locations that make up his newest venture, Immediate Care Walk-In Centers, LLC, a line of urgent care centers in New Jersey.
Cannizzaro can move more quickly than most to innovate in the healthcare field, owing to a synergistic circumstance: He also owns a real estate development and construction company, one of a number of ventures launched during his career.
The newest Immediate Care center opened in late 2016 on Newman Springs Road in Red Bank, joining locations in East Windsor, Toms River, and Hazlet, where the company opened its first center in 2012. Next on the schedule is a Lacey location, which will be followed by centers in Brick, Edison, and Morganville. But Cannizzaro won’t be stopping there. By the end of 2017, he plans to have more than 10 Immediate Care centers up and running. When selecting new locations, he considers population, visibility, and access.
“I will open as many as feasible in various New Jersey counties and then move on to neighboring states,” said Cannizzaro, the company’s CEO, who began his professional life in the printing business before expanding to real estate and construction. He formed his umbrella company, SFC
Enterprises, Inc., in 1998, and the Innovative Folding Carton Company he founded at 24 in South Plainfield still operates today as Multi Packaging Solutions.
Cannizzaro’s upward career trajectory began with a promotion to production manager at a printing company, which came in 1980 after a year of study at New York City Community College, where he had planned to pursue a management degree. His new responsibilities meant he had to leave college before graduating. (He worked at the printing plant during the day and was a full-time student at night.) Although he has never looked back, he always remembers where he came from.
“The concept of walking into a doctor’s office and being treated within minutes was my first attraction,” Cannizzaro explained of his walk-in care center venture. “But the entire model makes sense. Patients and insurance companies save money, and you avoid long waits in emergency rooms. It’s a win–win situation. We are creating a new standard for urgent care…combining a personalized, caring environment with a commitment to providing compassionate and convenient services.”
Improving on existing walk-in urgent care clinics, Immediate Care seeks to offer an expanding array of services for non-lifethreatening medical illnesses and injuries. Beyond treating the likes of allergic reactions, minor injuries, infections, colds and flu, and rashes, it offers wellness care, vaccines, laboratory work, medical testing, physical exams, X-rays, senior services, and more. Future models will include physical therapy and pharmacies.
Specialists also make periodic visits to the centers.
Before jumping into the healthcare field, Cannizzaro did research, visited other facilities, spoke with experts, had a consultant coach him, and joined the accredited Urgent Care Association of America, all of which “really opened my eyes and confirmed my direction was correct,” he said.
Cannizzaro strives, for example, to hire board-certified physicians; in additional to conventional advertising, he hires national agencies to locate top doctors, and works with hospitals and contacts institutions of higher education to offer internships.
“People who are hard workers and really care about their jobs and company are few and far between,” he observed. “The greatest challenges we face besides finding doctors are the insurance companies, which are convoluted and difficult to work with. Reimbursements get cut; contracts are impossible. Sometimes they don’t pay for certain procedures doctors determine necessary because they disagree.”
Educating the community on whether to visit a hospital emergency room or a walk-in clinic is key, said Dr. Mary Ann Yehl, medical director at the Red Bank facility. “If you walk into a hospital emergency room with a non-life-threatening illness or injury, you’ll most likely spend significant time there,” she said. “Patients with more critical medical situations receive priority treatment in ERs. At Immediate Care, the goal is to get patients in and out quickly, but with a thorough examination.”
Yehl said the high cost of ER care is another consideration, since some hospitals accept only certain insurance coverage. Immediate Care, by contrast, welcomes all patients and participates with most insurance plans, as well as Medicare. The centers are open seven days a week and most holidays.
“Urgent care is not a substitute for emergency care, however,” Yehl cautioned. “An emergency condition is one that can permanently impair or endanger the life of the patient. Patients with these conditions should call 911 immediately.”
A winning synergy
Immediate Care’s Red Bank location serves as an example of how SFC Enterprises’ construction arm facilitates the creation of new clinics. In Red Bank, the center is part of SFC’s modern corporate headquarters.
“This is one of our strongest attributes—SFC Enterprises and Immediate Care are vertically integrated,” said Cannizzaro, SFC’s president. “We control the process from the beginning and don’t need to rely on others to create the ideal space. New centers are up and running within four months once we have the permits. That separates us from the competition.”
Sharing Cannizzaro’s passion and dedication is his son Frank, who as SFC vice president manages all Immediate Care’s construction projects.
“Once a new location is identified and goes through the necessary channels, a specific timeline is developed to stay on time and budget,” Frank said. “The construction and healthcare teams work side by side. Every member of the team has strategic goals and tasks they must complete so we can move to the next phase. Eventually, all moving pieces come together and the construction team turns the project over to the clinical operations team, who opens the center to the public.”
Besides working with and learning from his dad, Frank, who joined the company in 2005, enjoys what others often find most daunting— working with the experts, contractors, and local officials to obtain the necessary permits and licenses.
“Every municipality has its own nuances and ways of conducting business, and they govern construction,” Frank said.
“That part of the job is where I learn the most. I use those opportunities as teaching moments. You also learn a lot from the inspection process. It’s all about doing what’s right. When you do, you build a network of respect and trust.”
“It’s a rare and complex relationship when a father and son work together. I am blessed to have such a hardworking and respectable man who knows how to get the job done and appreciates hard work,” the elder Cannizzaro reflected. “When I learned of the urgent care model and studied it, I knew this is what I wanted to do. It is the perfect way of growing both companies simultaneously, through vertical integration.”
“Watching my father build this business has taught me so much. I have a front-row seat, and you can’t ask for better “SFC Enterprises and Immediate Care are vertically integrated,” said Cannizzaro. “We control the process, and don’t need to rely on others to create the ideal space.” on-the-job training than that,” Frank said. “He is definitely a visionary and a strategic thinker, with the ability to bring the right people together under unique circumstances and get the deal done. People don’t realize how much thought goes into the process and how much research he gathers to bring the services to each center.”
Paying It Forward
Sal Cannizzaro brings those same attributes to his work with a wide range of philanthropic organizations and endeavors. His goal, he said, is to dedicate time where he can make the most difference. The long list of beneficiaries of his social awareness includes Hometown Heroes, Autism Speaks, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Police Athletic League, law enforcement agencies, the United Way, poverty and hunger causes, youth and senior programs, and Superstorm Sandy relief—and there are many more.
“I love helping people and giving back,” he said. “It brings me great gratification when I know I helped someone.”
“The future holds endless possibilities for Immediate Care,” added Cannizzaro. “We have created a business model that works well, but we’re not content with that. So we will use the knowledge we acquire with every project to ensure the next one is even better, and will continue to bring the right people together to provide much-needed services tailored to every community we’re part of.”