After Maura Rosato, a restaurant cook, sliced her hand at work not long ago, she weighed her health-care options thoughtfully.
"I could go to my doctor," she said last week. "I could go to the emergency room. Or I could go here," she said, nodding toward the sweeping stone-and-glass exterior of LourdesCare at Cherry Hill, an ambulatory-care center on Route 70.
More than a doctor's office, less than a hospital, capacious health-care facilities like this are sprouting along Route 70 in Cherry Hill, earning it the nickname "Health Care Highway" from Mayor Chuck Cahn.
"It's convenient," the 32-year-old Rosato, a Haddon Heights resident, explained as she walked Friday across Lourdes' 400-car parking lot. Her first experience here had been a good one, she said, so now she was back to have a fluid buildup in her knee examined.
"I mean, it's not like I'm dying or anything," she continued. "But it might have taken me days to see my doctor."
LourdesCare, which in 2013 created this 56,000-square-foot facility at the intersection of Routes 70 and 41, was the first of the large, multipurpose health-care facilities in the township.
It is not the last.
On Thursday, Virtua Health System cut a ribbon to mark the formal opening of its Express Urgent Care facility and its family medicine practice at 315 Route 70 East.
Next month, Penn Medicine will cut the ribbon on its 150,000-square-foot ambulatory-care facility, Penn Medicine at Cherry Hill, which started seeing patients last Monday. It is situated where a Syms clothing store stood, at 1865 Route 70 East.
And Cooper University Health Care has an application pending before Cherry Hill's community development office to convert an office building on Route 70 once occupied by Lockheed Martin Corp. into a 96,000-square-foot outpatient facility near the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
"Everybody saw the potential of what Lourdes brought," Cahn said in an interview Thursday, soon after taking part in the ribbon cutting at Virtua.
Cahn cited Route 70's proximity to the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 295 as among the reasons such regional giants of health care are locating to the township.
He noted that Kennedy Hospital - the township's only full-scale hospital - is also in the midst of a major renovation on Cooper Landing Road, a short distance from Route 70, and expects in its next phase to add beds and a medical office building.
Kim Barnes, vice-president for planning and development at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, said Cherry Hill's location makes it especially attractive to health-care providers. "The majority of our patients come from Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties," she said. And so, as it looked to situate a satellite operation outside the city several years ago, "we drew a circle around all three counties, and the sweet spot at the center was Cherry Hill."
The new building, facing both Brace Road and Route 70 on the site of a long-vacant former supermarket "is not too far for anyone who was our patient" at the hospital in Camden, Barnes said.
LourdesCare does not offer major surgery as the hospital does, she said, but it has doctor's offices, which the hospital does not. "So if people need follow-up care, they're just five miles away."
Rich Miller, president and CEO of Virtua, said his large health-care system - he calls it the largest employer in South Jersey - had its eye on expanding into Cherry Hill for the past five years.
"But we don't believe in plopping down anywhere. It has to be the right location, and we felt this location was perfect."
About half the region's population does not have a regular health-care provider, said Miller, so urgent- care facilities "are very popular, especially for illnesses that are minor" and don't require expensive emergency room visits.
Virtua's family medicine practice - a presence on Morris Drive since about 2010 - relocated to its new Route 70 building in June. Its urgent-care facility opened next door on Monday.
In addition to 25 primary-care offices across Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties, Virtua operates five other outpatient facilities, three hospitals, two skilled nursing facilities, and a home health-care agency.
But the new giant on "Health Care Highway" is, for now, the Penn Medicine ambulatory-care facility.
Fronted in bright red, the 150,000-square-foot building contains the Penn cardiac and kidney medicine practices and a general medicine practice, which used to be about a mile west of the new site, as well as obstetrics-gynecology practices that used to be in Haddonfield and Voorhees.
"Over the last 10 years we've learned that what works best for us and for the patient is larger, more integrated sites where people can get more services in one location," said Ron Barg M.D., executive director of Penn Medicine's clinical-care associates' ambulatory-care network.
Workers were still installing walls on the first floor of the building Friday, but Barg said it would have about 100 exam rooms when completed and could accommodate about 200,000 patient visits a year.
"What you're seeing on Route 70 is the trend we're seeing all over," said Barg, who praised the township's "cooperative spirit."
He said he was particularly pleased that Cherry Hill had accommodated Penn's request for a new access road that allows exiting drivers to turn east or west onto the notoriously busy roadway.
"That was one of the conditions we put on the developer," said Barg. "If we hadn't gotten it we wouldn't have closed the deal.
"But we really wanted to be here," he said. "It's the right space. It meets our needs."