The new United Community Health Center is open, staffed, equipped and already seeing a healthy clientele.
The clinic, located in the former Dierwechter surgical office at 630 Ontario in Storm Lake, was created to provide primary care services to the uninsured, underinsured and undeserved of the Buena Vista County/Sac County region. The center opened its doors just over a week ago.
"Things are going really quite well," reflects Director Renea Seagren. "We didn't know what to expect, but we are already seeing eight to 10 patients a day."
The clients run the gamut - from people suffering from diabetes and people with high blood pressure, to those in need of well women services, to a dubious milestone - the facility's first broken bone.
The clinic is already providing some expanded hours, open from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8-5 on Friday and Saturday. Dr. Lisa Mosle is serving as medical director, on site on Tuesdays and consulting by phone on other days. Nursing practitioners provide most daily services, with some lab work done under contract with Buena Vista Regional Medical Center. An interpreter is on staff.
"The staff is handling things amazingly well right from the beginning," Seagren said. "There is always a large learning curve - not only do they have to deal with all of the regulation that any physician's office would face, being a Community Health Center brings a whole additional layer of regulation to deal with."
The clinic took shape in a very short time after landing a location and receiving funding. It is still waiting for some provider numbers for filing insurance claims, but that will not prevent the clinic from seeing patients with those forms of insurance, Seagen said. The clinic has its paperwork in place to file Medicare claims.
So far, patients are coming in largely on word-of-mouth. About 8,000 flyers were printed up, and the finishing touches are being placed on brochures. The clinic is working on billboards and media campaigns.
"So far, the people we see are all over the board - insured and uninsured; caucasian, Hispanic, Lao; all ages," Seagren said.
One of the first issues the clinic will hit out of the box will be dental health.
"We are going to be focusing on that. We will have the head of the Iowa Department of Public Health on dental services in for a meeting in Storm Lake on April 18 with the local dentists involved as well. We are hoping as a result to see the development of a task force formed on dental health issues in Storm Lake."
Mark Prosser serves as chairperson of the health center's board. "He has been a tremendous leader. The entire board has been committed and very supportive of our mission," Seagren said.
The clinic was born of discussions dating to 2001 coming out of meetings by a diversity task force. There was a concern over a void in accessibility to some health services and information by a ethnically-diverse and often uninsured population. In 2003, Upper Des Moines Opportunity charitable agency became involved, and the planning for a facility took focus.
"We would not be here without the help of UDMO and it's former director Larry Rohret," Seagren said. Rohret passed away earlier this season.
"Larry was a strong advocate for the undeserved and people who live in poverty. It is with a deep sadness that we open without him here to see the fruition of the project."
Senator Tom Harkin's office was then instrumental in helping to gain a founding grant, and a $245,000 funding package to help obtain medical equipment.
A formal Open House will be planned for some time in June, with the staff of the United Community Health Center hoping to invite Senator Harkin to attend.