Iron River clinic brings care closer to home
A four-month race against the clock ends at 9 a.m. Monday when the Lakes Community Health Center in Iron River opens its doors to the public. "It has been a bit of a marathon to get this going," said Pat Sheridan, board of directors president. Th...
A four-month race against the clock ends at 9 a.m. Monday when the Lakes Community Health Center in Iron River opens its doors to the public.
"It has been a bit of a marathon to get this going," said Pat Sheridan, board of directors president.
The federally funded center provides health-care services for patients regardless of insurance status or where they live. Its opening is meant to break down barriers to health-care access and could mean a shorter drive for rural patients and a new option for uninsured residents.
"We treat anyone who needs primary care," said Rebecca R. Thompson, center CEO, in a prepared statement.
Wende Nelson, executive of the Lake Superior Community Health Center in Superior, applauded the clinic's opening.
"Community health centers are really a family," she said. "When someone else joins the family, it's wonderful."
She said the new center means patients can "get care closer to home."
Community health-care centers have been in existence for a long time, Thompson said, and funding for them was expanded by President Bush in 2002.
Board members began pushing for a clinic in Iron River in April.
"Prior to receiving the grant it was all just a dream," Sheridan said.
When the board got the green light for funding inSeptember, he said, they were "off to the races trying to implement the plan."
The process was much different than the creation of the Lake Superior Community Health Center in 2000. In that case, Sheridan said, the clinic was already up and running. Turning it into a community health center was basically "a matter of paperwork."
In Iron River, the board started from ground zero, searching for a building and staff.
The sprint to the finish line was under way last week as interviews to fill center positions took place and cabinets were being installed.
"I'm confident by Monday morning we will have a functional clinic," Sheridan said, even if board members have to work through the weekend to make it so.
The new center serves a growing need. The application for the Iron River center estimated 12 percent of the residents of Ashland and Bayfield counties have no insurance.
Thompson said factors such as income level and the number of health-care providers in the area combined to make Bayfield County "statistically one of the highest areas of need in the country."
The Superior center has seen growing numbers of patients, Nelson said. Some have even made the trip from Ashland and Bayfield counties for care.
The center provided 7,464 visits to 2,195 patients through their medical center in 2007. The center's dental program provided 6,914 visits to 3,479 clients.
The clinic in Superior just hired a new dentist in August and a new physician in October to keep up with patient demand, Nelson said.
Currently, the Iron River clinic can only connect patients to dental care providers. But, Sheridan said, it is an area they hope to expand into soon because there is such a "dire need" for dental care, especially for those on Medicaid.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, more than 7,300 Douglas County residents received Medicaid in 2007. Another 2,300 Bayfield County residents and 3,800 Ashland County residents received Medicaid in 2007.
Even with the program up and running in Superior, Nelson said, the center has about 1,500 people on the dental waiting list.
The Lakes Community Health Center accepts patients who are insured, on Medicaid or uninsured. The center provides care on a sliding-fee scale based on income for those with no insurance.
The Lakes Community Health Center begins taking appointments at 9 a.m. Monday. The clinic is located at 7665 Highway 2, next to the Red Cedar Motel and across from A&L Service in Iron River.
Initially, health assessments and testing will be available. As center staff grows, Thompson said, the center will offer "full scope primary health care for all ages." In addition, the center has a benefit counselor on site.
To make an appointment or get more information, call (715) 372-5001.