A new health center is in the works that will expand on the services offered at Good Samaritan Hospital's Primary Care Clinic and better assist a growing portion of the population.
The Good Samaritan Family Health Center, which will be managed separately from the hospital, is slated for a January opening. It will be located in the same building as the current Primary Care Clinic at 429 S. Sixth St.
The facility will be a federally qualified health center, meaning that it has a government-mandated and funded set of regulations, explained Andrea Cole, who will be the center's chief executive officer.
That designation will not only help staff provide more services to a large portion of the population, but it will also help bring more health and care services into the community.
“In our area, we've always had a high need for individuals that are either underinsured, have no insurance, or are just underserved in general,” said Cole, formerly the hospital's executive director of primary care and behavioral health. “We're seeing that need grow, not only by the number of services they need but also by the quantity of the population that's underserved and uninsured.”
The center will start off by offering the same set of services as the Primary Care Clinic, including acute and chronic care.
After that, Cole said, other categories will be added to the list.
“We'll pull in behavioral health, dental services, optometry and pediatrics to help fill that void we currently have in the community,” she said. “And down the road, we'll also pull in OB/GYN services, too. There will be lots of phases.
“We're expanding services through this federally qualified set of regulations so that individuals can be served more and better,” Cole said.
The health center will be a standalone entity that's led by a community board, half of whose members will be made up of actual clinic patients.
“That feels really good, to have patients that are deeply involved in not only the early stage, but strategic planning and growth,” Cole said.
While the health center is technically separate from the hospital, there will be plenty of partnerships with hospital departments to get the center off the ground, including everything from Good Samaritan medical staff to human resources to the Samaritan Center and Physicians Network.
There will continue to be collaboration between the Physician Network physicians and Samaritan Center providers as well, Cole noted, to discuss what voids they're noticing so that the family health center can grow and help offset those needs.
In the beginning and probably for the next seven to 10 years, the family health center will be staffed by hospital employees, who will sort of be “leased out” to the center.
Many federally qualified health centers eventually reach a point where they're financially stable enough to have their own human resources departments and employees, but it usually takes about a decade to get there, Cole said.
Establishing the family health center offers several other benefits, beyond expanded services, to its potential patients and the community at large, she said.
For one thing, a lot of community grant dollars are funded through federally qualified health center s.
“That's kind of exciting,” Cole said. “Two years from now, we could figure out how to bring something more to the community than just what the clinic provides.”
This type of health center also offers more reimbursement opportunities, including higher reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare — and more reimbursements mean more services, which leads to more patients served.
“They also deliver high quality health care as shown through their health outcomes despite the challenging population they serve,” Cole said. “FQHCs will serve a key role when the internal medicine and psychiatrist residents come to the area in 2019 and 2020 — those residents will serve a crucial role in assisting the care of the patients served by the FQHC.”
Cole noted that the process of getting the family health center up and running is pretty involved, but it will be well worth it in the end.
“There are a lot of logistics that go into setting it up,” she said. “But it will bring a lot of long-term benefits to the community.”