GraceMed, a Wichita-based nonprofit with eight health care clinics, is in talks with the Shawnee County Board of Commissioners to take over operation of clinics there.
Its board of directors has approved a letter of intent with commissioners, said David Sanford, CEO of GraceMed.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be the ones operating clinics in Topeka, but it gives us the freedom to sit in on those conversations in 2015,” Sanford said.
“We’ve had preliminary conversations with the hospitals and two clinics and there’s been a real inability for those organizations to expand and open up to new patients, and the local Topeka folks weren’t satisfied with that.”
The Shawnee County community health center, which has three locations, and Marian Clinic, a Catholic supportive clinic, are part of the talks, Sanford said.
Shawnee County is interested in reducing the number of patients who go to the emergency room unnecessarily and in potentially adding dental and vision services to its clinics. GraceMed offers those services at its Wichita locations, Sanford said.
GraceMed has a “strong model that’s worked well in their community and aspects of their administration that we think would work well with us,” said Alice Weingartner, director of the Shawnee County community health centers in Topeka.
According to the letter of intent, the potential changes in operations are part of a redesign of the safety net system in Shawnee County. The redesign has several goals, including care for 25,000 unduplicated patients over five years, reduced use of county tax money over time, and identifying alternate sources of financial and facility support.
The biggest goal is to meet the needs of more patients, Weingartner said.
In 2013, the Shawnee County community health centers saw about 6,000 unduplicated patients, she said.
GraceMed has rapidly expanded in the past several years to eight locations. In 2015, it will open three more clinics in Wichita, including one at Jardine Middle School, one at West High, and one at Comcare at Twin Lakes.
GraceMed is also in the middle of a capital campaign for a new south-side clinic on three acres at the Richard A. DeVore South YMCA, 3405 S. Meridian.
Shawnee County is working with a consultant group to put together a time line and proposals, Weingartner said.
“With a change this significant, there are just hundreds of questions with regards to facilities, with regards to personnel,” she said.