Article from – Health Center Work On Time, On Budget

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By Cynthia Drummond Sun Staff Writer, Photo by Harold Hanka.

HOPE VALLEY — A major expansion of Wood River Health Services that began last October is expected to be completed as scheduled, this October. Now in its 40th year, the center, located on Main Street in Hope Valley, serves more than 7,000 patients
While the footprint of the building will remain the same, the expansion will add 1,440 square feet to the existing 10,435-square-foot structure at a cost of approximately $900,000. Most of the funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with an additional $250,000 from the Champlin Foundations. The AZ Corporation of North Stonington, which has experience in designing and building health center projects, is doing the work. Some offices have been moved to temporary modular trailers, but patient services are continuing during the construction, something Wood River President and CEO Michael Lichtenstein admitted has been challenging at times.
“They’ve been tremendously accommodating,” Lichtenstein said of the construction crew. “They come in earlier in the morning and they do their noisy work, as much as they can, before the staff and patients arrive. They get in between 5 and 6 am. The staff recognize and understand that there may be some noise and disruption.”
The center has had to close just once so far, on a recent Saturday, to allow the work to progress. There will likely be one more closure, on a Saturday in September.
The renovation and expansion will make it possible for the center to serve a growing number of clients. Following a growing trend in the delivery of health care, Wood River services will be based on the “patient home” model, in which medical, dental and behavioral health care are available at a single location.
“The expansion allows us to continue to strengthen our integration of care and services under one organizational roof,” Lichtenstein said. “So if someone comes in to our dental department, the staff will ask ‘where do you get your medical care?’ and if they don’t have a medical home, we refer them to our medical department.”
There are 65 staff at the center. Three physicians, four nurse practitioners, a physician’s assistant and a behavioral health specialist provide clinical services, and there are two dentists and three dental hygienists.
Lichtenstein said the center is also adding care management space where clients can receive a range of services, including assistance in applying for health insurance.
“Care management is sometimes called case management or social services,” Lichtenstein explained. “We have a nurse care manager who is one of the staff members on that team and she will engage the patients who are at higher risk because of chronic disease, diabetes, hypertension…They will assist in obtaining health insurance for people who don’t have health insurance, which is a big issue for the community.”
Client amenities will improve, with a more private patient check-in area. The waiting room will almost double in size, with seats for 30 patients. The number of examination rooms will increase from 13 to 16, and there will be two behavioral health offices. Amenities for the staff will also improve, with a remodeled outdoor patio and meeting area which is being designed and built by Manfredi Lawn Care of Westerly.
Lichtenstein praised the construction crew for its sensitivity to the center’s clients and staff. “They have a special sensitivity to working in a healthcare environment,” he said. “We’ve had other contractors and painters here that have had less awareness and sensitivity to cleanliness and safety…I check in with staff pretty regularly as far as noise goes and they tell me ‘these guys are great to work with.”