New clinic coming to Kennebec
KENNEBEC — After a little more than a year without a clinic, the town of Kennebec is eagerly awaiting the arrival of its new health care building.
That could happen as early as Tuesday, said Herb Sundall, a member of a committee that spearheaded a campaign and raised $107,000 to pay for a new clinic. It will replace the one it lost on Sept. 15, 2012, when Sanford Health — citing a lack of medical providers — pulled out of town and took its building with it.
Kennebec, population 240, is 30 miles west of Chamberlain on Interstate 90. The new clinic will be located at 120 S. Main St., on the site of the former clinic.
“The arrival date is a moving target,” Sundall joked. “We’ve had two previous dates.”
The 24-by-52-foot clinic building is being built in Springfield by prisoners at Mike Durfee State Prison and will be eventually transported to Kennebec.
Sundall said it will be similar to the houses built in South Dakota’s Governor’s House program for low-income buyers that inmates at Springfield also build, but the larger building will be built to the specifications of Avera Medical Group, which will operate the clinic.
The clinic will have two exam rooms, a waiting room and reception area, space for a laboratory and office space for providers. Julie Friesz, manager of the Avera Medical Group Chamberlain, will manage the Kennebec facility and will be responsible for staffing, supplies and provider schedules.
“It’s a heck of deal, and we’re pretty proud of the fact that this is happening,” said Sundall, a local attorney.
“This clinic is highly important for its convenience and to meet the medical needs of the Kennebec community, Sundall said.
The town surpassed its original $100,000 fundraising goal by $7,000, but the extra and more will be needed to pay for additional expenses such as sidewalks, parking and landscaping.
“We should be up and running later this fall,” said David Flicek, chief administrative officer for Avera Medical Group.
“The community has been very receptive about working with us and we’re looking forward to establishing a satellite clinic in Kennebec,” he said.
The clinic will have full-time employee five days a week, and a physician’s assistant from Chamberlain will also be at the clinic each week, during hours to be determined.
“We’ll also provide telemedicine services five days a week to a Chamberlain primary care provider, or to specialists, as needed,” said Flicek, who described the facility as a primary care clinic with access to primary and urgent care.
Telemedicine access will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status
“The care may not be provided by a person in the building at the time, but the employee who is there will be able to hook up telemedicine that will enable a patient to be seen,” he said.
The clinic could be a new model for rural healthcare delivery that will upgrade the effectiveness of satellite clinics, Flicek said.
As part of the deal, the community supplied the clinic building and Avera agreed to a five-year lease.
Sundall said the clinic committee went to Sioux Falls to get a first-hand demonstration of Avera’s eHelm telemedicine system.
The system uses a local healthcare professional — a registered nurse or qualified EMT — who is called a navigator, to connect patients with qualified doctors or medical specialists at a remote location. “In my opinion, it’s the wave of the future to furnish medical care to rural communities,” Sundall said.
Emergency care can also be delivered using the new system with the aid of a local health provider.
“You will be able to have an experienced trauma room physician sitting at other end of the connection, assisting with the immediate preservation of life while a helicopter gets ready to move a patient to a new facility, if that’s needed,” Sundall said.
Once the new clinic is open and operational, Kennebec will have a grand opening celebration, he said.
“We’re going to make a big deal of it,” Sundall said, “because, to us, it’s a big deal.”