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Area safety net clinics are expanding

Yvonne Robinson no longer lives in a health care desert.

The south Wichita mom of four, including two children with asthma, can literally see GraceMed’s Ablah Family Clinic at 3417 S. Meridian from her front door.

The 15,000-square-foot clinic opened in April 2017. The $4.6 million facility was part of GraceMed’s Project Oasis, meant to bring health care to areas of Wichita that had limited choices for residents in those neighborhoods, areas GraceMed called health care deserts.

“It’s great to have this now,” Robinson said. “If we need to go to the doctor, we can walk. That’s how conveniently located it is. It makes it especially helpful with all the kids,” ranging in ages from 10 to 18.

GraceMed is one of five safety net clinic systems in the Wichita area – clinics that serve either uninsured, the underinsured or those who need cheaper options for health care. In the past year, four of those clinics have announced or completed expansions of clinical space. In most cases, those expansions were made possible by community support, from capital campaign donations to increased volunteer efforts, said officials with the clinics.

Community donations, for example, paid for the building and equipping the Ablah Family Clinic, while the Guadalupe Clinic added four specialists and a second chiropractor who stepped up to offer their services on a volunteer basis.

“That speaks to the heart of the Wichita community. It speaks to the heart of the medical community, it speaks to the university programs and it speaks to the doctors who take time from their practice and the doctors who are retired but work here because of their love of medicine,” said David Gear, the executive director of Guadalupe Clinic.

Here are the most recent expansions that have or will happen at Wichita’s five safety net clinics.

GraceMed

GraceMed, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, has been one of the fastest-growing safety net clinics in the areas.

“In the past five years, we’ve grown from three to 12 locations in Wichita,” said Dave Sanford, CEO. It’s also branched out from Wichita in the past year, with clinic locations in Topeka and McPherson, as well.

At the Ablah Family Clinic, its newest hub clinic in Wichita near the South YMCA, patients also can see an on-staff eye doctor and dentist, too.

GraceMed runs with paid staff and a $22 million budget that comes from federal grants, Medicare and Medicaid payments and patient office visit payments based on a sliding fee scale.

“We can cover our costs of operation but we can’t re-invest in equipment and facilities to expand or replace,” said Sanford. That’s where community support through capital campaigns come in, he said.

GraceMed eventually plans to convert administrative office space in its Helen Galloway Clinic at 1122 N. Topeka into more clinical space to add dental and more medical services. It would then move its administrative headquarters out of that location, along with administrative services from two other locations, into a separate facility, Sanford said.

Guadalupe Clinic

Within the past year, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita’s Guadalupe Clinic – the largest donation-based clinic, according to its executive director – added endocrinology, gastroenterology, cardiology and orthopedics services and a second chiropractor. The clinic only sees patients who don’t have insurance.

The clinic, which has three locations, relies on more than 300 volunteer medical providers and the $5 donation from patient visits, said David Gear, the clinic’s executive director. The in-kind donations from the volunteers and other medical providers from 2016-17 was valued at more than $1.6 million of its $2.9 million budget, Gear said.

About 1 1/2 years ago, the clinic’s location at 2825 S. Hillside – alongside the Lord’s Diner – increased its exam space from three rooms to five, Gear said.

HealthCore

The clinic at 2707 E. 21st St., started a $10.7 million expansion and renovation in 2016. According to a Wichita Eagle article at the time, the new 40,000-square-foot facility was to include 33 exam rooms (up from 10), 11 mental health rooms integrated throughout the clinic, a seven-chair dental clinic, pharmacy, legal offices, kitchen, fitness room, education center, walking path and community garden. Clinic officials did not respond to requests for an interview for updated information.

Hunter Health Clinic

Later this spring, Hunter Health Clinic will move into its new 21,000-square-foot clinic at 2318 E. Central, said Amy Feimer, the CEO. The new building is north of the existing clinic, which also includes administrative space. In the new facility, everything will be related to patient care, she said.

The new clinic will have 34 medical and behavioral health exam rooms, up from the current 15, and the dental operatories will double to 8. The new space also will allow the clinic to integrate social services and case management help for its patients.

“There’s a correlation between physical health and mental health, for patients,” said Feimer.

The $7 million facility is being funded in large part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with clinic funds. Hunter Health Clinic is the only Urban Indian Health program in Kansas and one of 34 nationwide.

Mayflower Clinic

Founded in 2010 by a group of immigrants, the clinic moved to a new location at 154 N. Market from 209 S. William in December. Renovation is still underway, but eventually, the clinic will have 4,000 square feet of clinical space, about twice what the old location had, said Chelsea French, the clinic’s executive director and CEO.

Apartments and rental office space will fill the remaining space in the 16,800-square-foot building and provide some revenue to run the clinic. Ten percent of the rent will help fund the clinic, French said.

The clinic relies on volunteers, including about 30 doctors, to provide medical and clinical services. Patients are asked for a $25 donation for their first visit and a $10 donation on follow-up visits. Other medical facilities donate diagnostic and testing services, French said.

Once finished – which is projected to happen by August – the new space will have five exam rooms. The old space had only three. With the addition of an autoclave, which is used to sterilize equipment, the clinic also will add well-woman checks, French said. A new community room will allow the clinic to start offering educational seminars on smoking cessation, living with diabetes and other preventative care topics.

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