By CRISTINA JANNEY
First Care Clinic of Hays is wrapping up a $1 million renovation of its Hays building and has set an open house and ribbon cutting for July 16.
The clinic has added eight exams rooms, a telemedicine room, a patient education room, a nurses station and renovated the basement into staff offices.
Bryan Brady, First Care CEO, said the renovations were necessary to meet patient demand.
In the last 12 months, the clinic has had 18,000 patient visits, which is a significant increase, Brady said. He said First Care is taking on more patients as other providers are cutting back.
“The reason why we are doing this is to fill gaps in the community,” Brady said. “We are not trying to compete with anyone. We see a need and are trying to fill that need.”
Five of the exam rooms were added on the second floor in the space formerly occupied by staff offices. The other three exams are on the first floor.
The clinic offers Saturday hours, but only has one provider on call on Saturdays. Adding exam rooms on the first floor will allow all the staff working on Saturday to be on the same floor.
The clinic recently added a provider, and the additional exam rooms will allow the staff to keep up with their growing patient loads.
One room is going to be used full-time for telemedicine. The clinic had offered mental health services one day a week via telemedicine, but that had occupied an exam room that was needed for the medical providers. The clinic plans to expand its mental health services and is looking at offering other speciality medical services through telemedicine in the future.
“When you come to our building and you are sitting in that lobby, nobody knows if you are here for dental, medical or behavioral health. They have no idea,” Brady said. “I think we don’t have that stigma that sometimes surrounds mental health.”
The clinic also hopes to use its new patient education room to offer shared medical appointments. Patients would see their provider at around the same time on the same day. After their appointments are complete, about eight patients would meet together for an education session on their shared illness.
Brady gave the example of diabetics or patients with hypertension learning about healthy diet.
“We are going to work on behaviors,” Brady said. “We have medicines that control that stuff, but sometimes we have human behaviors that get in the way.”
The clinic has already realized success with its nurse closer program. A CNA takes vitals and discusses the patient’s complaint. Then the patient sees the doctor. Then a nurse closer goes over doctor’s recommendations and wellness strategies.
“By the time the nurse goes over it, they have heard it three times,” Brady said. “We feel that is allowing people to have a better understanding of their health care and the goals and objectives we are trying to achieve.”
He said the clinic has seen a reduction in calls with questions with the implementation of the nurse closer program.
“In health care, it is better to have people talk to people,” Brady said. “Face to face is a good thing.”
First Care’s building, 105 W. 13th, was built in the 1940s. The clinic moved into the building in 2008 and purchased it in 2009. During the last 1o years, the building has been under almost constant construction.
In 2oo9, the clinic replaced its HVAC systems followed by the addition of dental chairs in 2011 and 2014. In 2017, the waiting room and nine exam rooms were remodeled.
The current renovation included 10,000 square feet. The basement of the building was not finished and was being used for storage.
The clinic received three grants toward its latest renovation. This includes $518,000 from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, $100,000 from the Leo J. and Albina Dreiling Trust and undisclosed amount from the Robert E. and Patricia A. Schmidt Foundation.
“The Schmidt Foundation is proud to be a part of this wonderful project. Bob and Pat were early cheerleaders for the First Care Clinic and their enthusiasm continues today,” said Gary Shorman, president of the Schmidt Foundation. “The new facility provides an environment that truly matches the outstanding care given by the First Care team.”
The $1 million price tag for the renovation did not include equipment, Brady said.
Brady said the clinic is still trying to spread the word about its services. The clinic is a full-service medical home providing dental, primary medical care and behavior health care.
Although the clinic has a sliding fee scale, it is open to all patients.
Medical director Dr. Christine Fisher said in a written statement, “At First Care Clinic, the patient is at the center of everything we do. We have transitioned from a walk-in clinic to a family-oriented practice that offers personalized, comprehensive care. We believe in wellness, prevention and treating the whole person, including behavioral health concerns. First Care Clinic will continue to innovate and improve for the benefit of our patients and our community.”
The clinic invites the public to its open house and ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 16. Tours will be offered. Lunch will be provided and door prizes given away. Free blood pressure and vision screenings, as well as fluoride dental treatments, also will be offered.