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McPherson to choose among three proposals for building of health clinic

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, May 23, 2014, at 6:49 p.m.

A community group in McPherson, spearheaded by the McPherson Healthcare Foundation, wants a health care clinic in town by this time next year.

In March, the group issued a request for any interested “Federally Qualified Health Centers” to write proposals for a future clinic, then selected three organizations from those proposals: GraceMed in Wichita, Salina Family Health Care and Heart of Kansas in Great Bend.

“Rather than waiting on a clinic to go to the community, we’re the community going to the clinic,” said Chad Clark, executive director for the McPherson Healthcare Foundation. “We knew there was a real void in clinic care, so this has been on the burner for our organization for quite some time.”

The foundation expects hundreds could be served by the new clinic.

Although McPherson has private practices and a hospital, it does not have any clinics for the uninsured or underinsured, Clark said.

“If people are to go to a health center, they have to go to Salina or Newton or Hutchinson. But the problem is if you can’t afford medical care, you probably can’t afford transportation, either,” Clark said. “A lot of our physicians are full. Even if you have insurance, it’s difficult to find health care here in McPherson.”

It’s unique for communities to approach health centers, said Cathy Harding, executive director of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved.

“I’m impressed they said they needed more health care in McPherson and sought out existing health centers,” she said. “Why reinvent the wheel?”

Over the next several months, members of the McPherson group will visit the three clinics and select one to build in McPherson. They hope to make a decision on the clinic by October, Clark said.

So far, GraceMed has seven clinics in Sedgwick County. A McPherson site would be the clinic’s first venture outside the Wichita area, said Dave Sanford, GraceMed CEO.

The McPherson Healthcare Foundation was started in the late 1980s to enhance health care programs and aid the local hospital, Clark said.

Eventually, the group hopes to add dental and mental health services to the clinic.

Clinic costs

Cost estimates are still being put together, Clark said. But the community group has already identified a building site downtown and put together a financial incentives package for the clinic to “make it more attractive for them to come,” Clark said.

Another agency in town will provide the clinic’s equipment, he said, so the outside clinic will be responsible for staffing and the financial side.

Federally Qualified Health Centers are those that have a designation that makes them eligible for additional funding from the federal government. The health centers are given grants associated with the location of services, so in order to operate outside their designated communities, the clinic awarded the new site will have to file paperwork with the government to expand its scope.

However, expanded scope does not ensure additional federal funding.

Sanford said McPherson officials could apply to be a “ New Access Point” with the federal government to get additional funding. For 2014, the New Access Point program awarded more than $150 million to sites across the country, including $877,500 to the Lyon County Health Department. The program is part of the Affordable Care Act.

If the community or foundation doesn’t help subsidize the clinic, it may be self-sustainable with the right mix of uninsured and insured patients, Sanford said.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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