(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
NEW MADRID - It is a favorite story now of the staff at SEMO Health Network.
After moving into their new building at 421 Line St., they would watch the reactions of patients walking into the facility. One woman walked through the door, looked around the large waiting room then walked back outside to double check the name on the sign.
"She wanted to make sure she was in the right facility," laughed Cheryl White, chief executive officer of the program designed for medically underserved rural communities of Southeast Missouri.
White added she and the staff are still marveling as well at their new 8,000-square-foot facility which opened in June. The expansion at New Madrid is just the prescription to change people's attitudes about the health network, she said.
"We always have provided excellent healthcare. Now with the cosmetic changes it has all come together - a beautiful, modern facility where patients are reassured they are getting the best in healthcare," White said.
The building, which more than doubled the medical office space available, includes a front reception desk and a large waiting room complete with a big screen TV. There is an area for the nurses to record weights, heights and where patients can ask questions or voice concerns before meeting with their physician in one of the 13 patient rooms.
A small lab is already up and running with work continuing on the large lab, which White described as equivalent to one found in a small hospital. "This will help patients because now they won't have to drive out of town to have lab work done," White said.
Also the facility features a large conference room, full kitchen and an area for the staff. There are offices for the staff and the doctors including a room set aside for teleconferencing allowing doctors and patients to confer with specialists in Columbia, St. Louis and elsewhere and another for counseling patients. One room serves as storage for the Network's medication assistance program supplies.
A smaller entrance at the side of the building leads into a smaller waiting area and offices. White foresees this being used by speciality doctors who might practice from the facility once-a-week.
More than two years in planning, the project went together even faster than expected. Construction began in October of last year and by June the staff was moving furniture in for their opening day.
The CEO pointed out the project came in under budget, too.
White explained the expansion was funded through state community health revenue, the fees charged for medical services and generous donors, who were interested in improving the medical facility in New Madrid. She noted the building was sold to SEMO Health Network by owner Dave McClarty, at "a very good" price and was supplemented by numerous donations. She is also quick to point out there was a lot of hard work donated by the staff, their friends and families.
"I can't believe how many people came through because they saw this as a good cause and wanted to help," she said. "It was a group effort."
According to White there are advantages to the new facility than just more room.
The setup of the building allows streamlining of operations and for the computerization of records. White said she expects the wait time to be reduced and, in turn, this would enable the clinic to see more patients, further expanding its patient services.
Also with the expansion, she said she expects the SEMO Health Network to recruit more doctors. Already the New Madrid Clinic is adding one new doctor. Mike Butner will return to Missouri and join the clinic's staff on Aug. 18.
"He has always been a hometown doctor and he fell in love with New Madrid and the new clinic," she said.
The staff is equally pleased with their new home.
Sheila Grissom, a nurse assistant who also moved furniture to the new building, describes the new facility as "pretty awesome. I never thought it would turn out like this. We feel so fortunate to be here."
Glisha Hill, an LPN, agreed and noted she has heard from some of the citizens who have expressed how pleased they were by the improvements.
Those who haven't yet had the opportunity to see the new facilities can do so at a grand opening scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 15.