By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent

EPPING — A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday at the site of the new Epping Regional Health Center, a 25,650-square-foot medical facility designed to increase patient choice and access to health care services offered by Exeter Hospital and Core Physicians in Epping and nearby towns.

Construction is set to begin on the $6 million center at 212 Calef Highway (Route 125) that will offer a host of services, including family medicine, pediatrics, adult and pediatric rehabilitation, X-rays, lab services and mobile digital mammography.

"We are continuously trying to fulfill our mission of improving the health of the communities that we serve and this project, we believe, does accomplish that mission," said Roxanne Touchette, vice president of clinical operations for Core Physicians.

The single-story structure is expected to open in the winter of 2013.

"Hopefully with that opening we will meet our objectives and try to meet your objectives as a community," said Kevin Callahan, president and CEO of Exeter Health Resources.

Core Physicians plans to move its Epping and Kingston offices, which include Kingston Pediatrics, to the new facility where they will have more space and more services.

Its Epping location — Epping Health — is currently located in the Eppicenter commercial plaza on Route 125. When it opened in January 2008, Dr. Joseph Bernard said the office had only three people — him, a nurse and someone at the front desk — and saw about eight patients.

"Now we've grown to two physicians, a nurse practitioner, and multiple staff. I think we have 10 total in our office," he said.

Bernard said he's looking forward to the new office that's able to provide other services like X-rays, mammograms, physical therapy in the new facility that aren't currently offered at the Epping office.

The plan also calls for moving Exeter Hospital's pediatric rehabilitation services from a small office in a strip mall on Epping Road in Exeter to the new Epping location.

"What's so exciting about this project for us is not only that we're working in a health center with pediatricians, but this will be our new headquarters," said Brian Campbell, vice president of ambulatory services at Exeter Hospital.