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Health center opens at new site Monday

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2001

The new Kenai Public Health Center, opening Monday behind Country Foods, is spacious, modern and a welcome ray of sunshine for its staff and clients.

Formerly housed in the deepest recesses of Kenai City Hall, the new 6,500-square-foot center is covered in windows, allowing the nurses to see something of the community they serve.

"We are very, very excited," said Nurse Manager JoAnn Hagen during a tour of the facility last week. "Especially those who worked in the basement of city hall."

This is Hagen's second move since being part of the center. When she started in 1978, the clinic was housed in a duplex in Old Town, where it had been moved from in front of the Kenai Mall. The clinic offices and exam rooms moved to the basement of Kenai City Hall in the early 1980s, but outgrew it almost immediately as the staff grew to 16. In the last three years, the administration moved across the street to the Tangent Building, while the home-visit nurses moved to the old Kenai Courthouse.

The new building was constructed through a three-way partnership between the city of Kenai, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the state.

"It was a very interesting arrangement," Hagen said. "A very creative collaboration."

The building itself is owned by the borough, though the state paid for 62 percent of it -- the same proportion of floor space it occupies. It sits on land the city donated.

"This is something (Kenai Mayor) John Williams worked very hard on," Hagen said. "He deserves a lot of credit."

Some organizations have made major donations to the clinic. The Sons of the American Legion is donating a toy set-up for the children's waiting area and the 40-and-8 of Kenai is donating a table and chairs and a refrigerator, Hagen said.

"Everybody has really pulled together to make this happen," Hagen said.

While the state Public Health Nurses will occupy 6,500 square feet, Central Peninsula General Hospital will move into the adjacent 4,000 square feet next month.

Interim CPGH CEO Jay Seigfreid said the hospital's portion will contain a lab, an X-ray room and mammography equipment and may get an ultrasound machine in the future.

"We're trying to see if there is a need in Kenai or not," Seigfreid said.

There will also be space for a visiting physician's clinic, and the Veterans Affairs clinic may use its services, Seigfreid said.

He said the hospital's target date for moving in is Aug. 1, but that depends on equipment deliveries.

The two will share public restrooms and mechanical systems, though operate independently through separate doors inside the main entrance.

The entrance itself has a covered portico supported at the end by four stone columns set slightly askew, giving the effect of a curved facade. The plain cement sidewalks are heated to melt snow and ice. In the handicap parking area to the left of the entrance are stone inserts in the asphalt between parking places.

Inside, the reception area is to the left, a children's play area to the right. The waiting area in the center is set off by a 10-foot mosaic at the far end by Paula and Brad Dickey called "Sea Life See Health."

Made possible through the state's 1 percent for art program, the mosaic is an abstract underseascape comprised of small ceramic tiles. In the right light, they have the sheen of mother-of-pearl.

Hagen said the clinic does not have a budget to buy more art, but encourages anyone who would like to donate some to call her. There's plenty of wall space in both the public and private areas.

To the left of the waiting area is a glass-walled conference area that becomes, on its far end, a kitchenette.

Down the main hall, which makes a loop inside the Public Health side, exam rooms are toward the center, while offices line the outside wall. There are six exam rooms and a small laboratory.

"Just like a real clinic," Hagen said.

The exam rooms are spacious, since the clinic sees a lot of families.

The building also has three storage rooms. One is for medicine, another is for the home-visit nurses and a third is for general supplies.

"I'm surprised at all the things we thought of," Hagen said of the building's design.

Architect Bill Kluge created the building with the help of a design group comprised of Hagen, then-CPGH Chief Executive Officer Marty Richman, CPGH Board President Diana Zirul and several others.

Meanwhile, the denizens of city hall, led by City Clerk Carol Freas, put together several options for new City Manager Linda Snow to look over regarding use of the freed up space downstairs.

"A group of us got together to talk about a couple of ideas, though nothing has been settled on," Freas said.

The options include moving her office, or that of another city department down there.

"I think whatever goes down there, the space will have to be redesigned," Freas said.

Mayor Williams has talked about attracting more health care providers to downtown, perhaps near, or even attached to, the new health center. They could include the Dena'ina Health Clinic and the Veterans Clinic.

"It would be nice to be near them," Hagen said. "We serve similar clients and often refer them to each other."

The building was designed to accommodate growth to the east and the north, though parking space will become short.

A grand opening celebration for the clinic will have to be postponed until after CPGH moves in and the school immunization rush is over, Hagen said. With school starting on Aug. 22 and new requirements for Hepatitis A and B vaccinations, she suspects the clinic will be too busy for an opening celebration in the next month.

The center's doors will open at 8 a.m. Monday.



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