The new Kenai Public Health Center, , is more than just a place to get a flu shot or have an X-ray taken, it is a testament to what can be accomplished when an entire community gets behind a project, said Elmer Lindstrom, the special assistant to the state commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Staff of the new facility, area politicians involved in the project, interested community members and others came together to celebrate the grand opening and dedication of the new facility, located at 630 Barnacle Way, Friday at 3 p.m. The building houses Alaska Public Health Nurse services and a Central Peninsula General Hospital outpatient clinic.
The public health services program gives a wide variety of immunizations for babies, children and adults. In addition, it offers communicable diseases follow-ups, a family planning clinic, health education programs, screening and referrals for children with special needs and an intensive home and hospital visiting program for prenatal clients or clients with young children. All childhood services are free and adult services are offered with sliding scale fees -- meaning certain procedures carry a certain fee based on federal Medicare rates, but if a patient can't afford to pay the fee it can be waived or reduced so everyone can receive services.
The CPGH portion of the facility serves as a non-emergency extension of the hospital that offers imaging services and a lab, although blood and other samples must be sent to the hospital for processing. The facility is equipped to do several imaging services, including mammograms, X-rays, electrocardiograms and bone density scans.
The CPGH outpatient facility did not exist before the new building was completed. It is a convenience to both the hospital, which can send non-trauma patients to the outpatient clinic, and patients.
"It makes a great deal of difference for the people that would previously have to drive all the way to the hospital to have services done, " said Renee Howarth, a certified medical assistant at the facility. "At the hospital sometimes you have other departments you have to go through to get a procedure done. Here it's a clinical setting; the minute you walk through the door you're greeted with a smiling face. It's a lot less waiting time and the registration procedure is faster. That's what everyone has commented on -- it's painless."
Housing all the public health services under one roof is a convenience for the staff, patients and everyone involved as well, said Hagen. The public health services used to be spread between the basement of Kenai City Hall, the Tangent Building and the old courthouse.
The plan for the building came about five years ago after the city council initiated a study to determine how much need there was in the community for such a facility. The results of the study showed an overwhelming need for a medical facility in Kenai, said Kenai Mayor John Williams. Kenai is the largest community on the peninsula, yet it had no hospital or public medical facility, Williams said.
The study also included several possible sites and cost estimates for the facility. The Barnacle Way site behind Country Foods IGA was chosen because the parcel of land was unused -- so there was no danger of soil contaminants, it was quiet, off the main roads, had utilities nearby and at 1.6 acres, it was large enough to accommodate the facility, Williams said.
The city council donated the land, which was valued at around $180,000, Williams said. The state Legislature granted $1.7 million to the project, the hospital board kicked in another million, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough footed the bill for a lot of the facility's equipment.
According to Williams, the facility cost well over $3 million.
"We've got our money's worth out of it," Williams said. "It's a first-class facility."
The building itself is sectioned into two areas, with the public health program on one side and the outpatient clinic on the other. It provides a friendly environment for patients, Howarth said, and even has an Italian-tile mural titled "Sea Life See Health" by Homer artists Paula and Brad Dickey in the waiting room.
"It's a beautiful facility; spacious, light and bright and welcoming and warm," Howarth said. "Everybody that's come in has commented on the beautiful colors and artwork that's been done."
The building was completed in July, five years after its inception. This was a good time line for this type of project, Williams said, especially considering how many government agencies and other organizations were involved and needed to come to an agreement on it. The facility has been seeing patients since a few days after opening.
"All the friends and members of the public, they're the winners," Williams said. "They're the ones that benefit from it."
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