GraceMed, Via Christi Health and the Greater Wichita YMCA are putting together plans to build a $7.5 million clinic on three acres at the Richard A. DeVore South YMCA at 3405 S. Meridian.
“We basically identified that of all the quadrants of Wichita, the southern part of this area was terribly underserved,” said Dave Sanford, CEO of GraceMed.
“When you look at the number of private dental and medical offices that exist in south Wichita, there are very few, so the people that live and work there have a long distance to go to get to the existing medical facilities.”
South Wichita is often referred to as a “health care desert” by area providers, so the proposed clinic is being called Project Oasis.
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Organizers estimate that more than 17,000 people per year would be served by the clinic.
Of the more than 160,000 people in the 12 ZIP codes around the site, eight in 10 live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the Uniform Data System, a federally funded project through the Robert Graham Center.
The YMCA will provide the land for free as long as it’s being used as a clinic, said Dennis Schoenebeck, general executive for the Greater Wichita YMCA.
About 60 percent of the people who attend the south YMCA are on some form of scholarship, Schoenebeck said. That facility also has about 85,000 visits a month.
“We’re creating a sense of community and a gathering place, and this enhances that,” Shoenebeck said.
“It would be kind of a destination site for a variety of services. ... The trend across the country seems to be a much stronger relationship between medicine and wellness, so you do see a variety of partnerships being created around the country, but I’m not familiar with a YMCA with a formal clinic on site. This is a first.”
Ed Hett, medical director for new models of care at Via Christi, said the site could help people get many of the services they need all in one location – or at least next to each other.
“From a clinical standpoint, to help change a lifestyle, it helps to have those all in close proximity,” Hett said. “If you’re diabetic, you can go and get the medications you need and devices and services to monitor it, and then you don’t have to travel for lifestyle classes, so it solves a transportation and access issue.”
GraceMed has applied for a federal grant of about $650,000 that will help with operational costs, Sanford said, and it should know if it will receive the grant next month. About $150,000 of that grant can be used in the first year to help with capital needs, he said. If GraceMed receives those funds, it can possibly have a temporary facility by early 2014.
Long-term fundraising efforts will begin in September, and until it has more solid funding, GraceMed doesn’t plan to release a timeline of when it hopes to finish the project, Sanford said.
“This project is not primarily dependent on federal or state funds,” Sanford said. “This is a private initiative, and we’re asking citizens in this area to step forward and help with this. … We have terribly neglected south Wichita when it comes to access to health care, and this is an opportunity to build that infrastructure.”
Via Christi has been helping with the legal and support aspects of the project and will also help with electronic medical record systems and fundraising, said David Gambino, chief strategy and regional administrative officer for Via Christi.
“We also plan to be sort of the landlord of the facility with GraceMed and making sure the building is constructed appropriately for the needs,” Gambino said.
Six Via Christi Family Medicine residents have signed letters of intent to work with GraceMed once they’ve completed their training.
“The intent is once we have the clinic built, they all desire to work together as a team,” Sanford said.
Justin and Christa Morgan, a husband and wife team who are third-year Via Christi residents, are part of the group that wants to practice together.
“We just really want to help the underserved in Wichita and appreciate GraceMed, the YMCA and Via Christi’s willingness to support us in that dream,” Justin Morgan said. “We love that it’s a Christian clinic and they’ll let us pray with patients since there’s typically more problems with people than just physical problems.”
The proposed clinic will serve as a hub for four school-based clinics that GraceMed is in the process of completing. Three of those four are in the southern part of town, Sanford said, and while they will provide primary care, they won’t have some of the additional services that the main clinic will have.
“Right now, our vision is to be a one-stop shop,” he said of the main clinic.
The total amount estimated for the four clinics and the main clinic is about $11.3 million, and $2 million in federal grants have already been secured for the school clinics.
Services at the clinic will include prenatal care, pediatric care, geriatrics, optometry, in-house pharmacy and a basic lab. It also plans to have behavioral health consultants “embedded” with the primary care providers. Additionally, plans include an urgent-care center to help prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
Sanford said the hours of the clinic will also be extended and open on the weekends.
The 30,000-square-foot facility will have 36 medical exam rooms for up to 12 providers, including midlevels, Sanford said. Plans also call for 12 dental operatories for three full-time dentists and hygienists and two optometric lanes for one or two optometrists.