Expansion Complete

Expansion Complete

PROMINENT atop a hill off of U.S. 11, north of Lexington, is the newly expanded/renovated Rockbridge Area Health Center. The $6.6 million project took a year-and-a-half to complete. (Ed Smith photo)

Expansion Complete

A DENTAL operatory – one of RAHC’s eight new ones – utilizes the latest technology. (Ed Smith photo)

Expansion Complete

THE FACILITY’S reconfigured and relocated patient waiting is seen here. (Ed Smith photo)

Expansion Complete

PERFORMING clerical duties is Lucy Stowbridge, a patient access team assistant. (Ed Smith photo)

Health Center Celebrates New Space Thursday

Construction has been completed on the newly expanded/renovated Rockbridge Area Health Center, in advance of a ribbon cutting ceremony, open house and tours of the new facility, slated to take place tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 10.

“We’re ready for the grand opening,” said Suzanne Sheridan, RAHC executive director, though she notes the facility never actually closed during the year-and-a-half of construction.

All health care services continued to be offered throughout the four phases of construction. Different departments just had to relocate temporarily in different parts of the building or in a trailer in the back parking lot while construction kept apace.

The health care center has more than doubled in size, from a single floor of 10,000 square feet of space to nearly 24,000 square feet of space on two floors. The two-story building – with its glass and brick exterior and covered drive-through patient drop-off on the north side – is more visible from U.S. 11, north of Lexington, than it was previously.

The more spacious facility, said Sheridan, “will allow for greater access to a variety of different services – behavioral services, dental, primary care. We can focus more on patient education. We have room for classes. We have integrated care – support for patients across all of these different disciplines.”

“With more space comes greater capacity,” she said, noting that the number of patients utilizing RAHC’s services continues to rise. RAHC expects to have more than 6,000 different patients this year, accounting for 20,000 visits. “We’re definitely on track to exceed this,” she remarked. “Through August, we have had 5,553 unique patients and 16,144 visits.”

In response to increased demand, RAHC has greatly expanded its staff in recent years. The facility now has five doctors (two are pediatricians), three nurse practitioners, three denhelp them sign up for insurance, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act. We’ll help them understand [how to navigate their way through health care]. We want to work with other organizations like Rockbridge Area Community Services. We meet with them regularly. We complement each other.”

RAHC also offers women’s health and family planning services. “We have been providing [obstetrics] services, prenatal for routine pregnancies and high-risk pregnancies in partnership with [the University of Virginia Medical Center] through telemedicine. We have a certified midwife. We offer family planning services in partnership with the health department. We’ve expanded our pediatrics care.”

RAHC’s dental care services are also offered at a satellite facility, Mountain View Family Dentistry, at 2131 Magnolia Ave. in Buena Vista. RAHC provides in-school dentists, two dental hygienists, three mental health counselors and support staff for these services for a total of 73 employees. Going forward, RAHC hopes to recruit another full-time physician, a dentist and a mental health counselor. “With accompanying support positions, we should be fully staffed,” said Sheridan, by the end of next summer “That’s a realistic goal.”

Sheridan said she’s often asked, “‘Are you competing with the hospital or the private practices?’ I like to think that we’re a good partner with the hospital and that we complement the different services, specialty care. We’re in an area that has a health care professional shortage so we have a role to play in that.

“We have an outreach team with members who can meet one-on-one with patients to tal services twice a year to all of the Rockbridge area schools.

RAHC is looking for partnership opportunities with veterans organizations so veterans can access health care closer to home. Janet Beebe of RAHC met last week with representatives of the Military Officers Association of America. “We can provide a local resource for veterans,” said Beebe.

RAHC has been a resource for Rockbridge area residents who were added to the Medicaid rolls when Virginia opted to go with Medicaid expansion. RAHC is an affordable option for the uninsured, the under-insured with high-deductible plans as well as the fully insured, said Sheridan. “We take everyone, regardless of age or income. We accept all major insurance plans.”

Those who would like to see RAHC’s new facility up-close can do so at an open house tomorrow, Thursday, from 3 to 5 p.m. RAHC is located at 25 Northridge Lane.

The News-Gazette

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