County Looks Forward To New Clinic

October 29, 2008
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Residents on the southeast side of Grand Rapids will have a new and improved Kent County-operated clinic by the middle of next year.

The rebirth of the Sheldon Clinic is expected to happen in June, almost two years to the day from when the old one closed its doors for good. The new clinic will have the same address at 121 Franklin St. SE. But instead of being in the former Sheldon Complex, which has been demolished, the new clinic will be in the $27 million Kent County Human Services Complex that is currently under construction.

“It will be a significant improvement,” said Robert Mihos, who directs the facilities management department for Kent County.

In addition to the Sheldon Clinic at 121 Franklin St. SE, the Kent County Health Department operates five other public health clinics across the county.

  • Fuller Clinic, 700 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids

  • Kentwood Clinic, 1620 44th St. SE, Kentwood

  • North County Clinic, 4388 14 Mile Rd NE, Rockford

  • Westside Clinic, 653 Stocking NW, Grand Rapids

  • Wyoming Clinic, 852 47th St. SW, Wyoming

The old clinic was often chilly in the winter, sometimes too cold for the infants brought in for checkups. The air conditioning had a knack of not running on the summer’s hottest days and the clinic had to close when the indoor temperature reached 90 degrees.

“It will be more in line with our other clinics,” said Mihos of the new clinic.

The Sheldon Clinic will be on the west end of the first floor in the two-story, 137,000-square-foot Human Services Complex. The clinic will have about 5,000 square feet of space for 10 examination rooms, staff offices, a group education room, a lab area, a waiting room and a break room for employees.

Kent County Health Department Administrative Officer Cathy Raevsky said the new clinic will provide a trio of advantages over the old one. It will offer clients greater privacy, will make it easier and less expensive to conduct group education classes on non-private health issues such as nutrition, and will allow the staff to practice the client-centered model the county uses at its five other clinics.

Raevsky said the old Sheldon Clinic was the second-busiest of the county’s six clinics, with only the one on Fuller Avenue servicing more clients. The space in the old clinic was very tight and the chairs were almost always full of clients waiting to see one of three nurses stationed there. The old one had only five exam rooms and didn’t have a group education room, so nutrition information had to be delivered one-on-one, most often in the waiting room.

“Now we are going to have twice as many examination rooms — we’ve got 10 — and that will increase our ability to have good client confidentiality,” she said.

Raevsky also said the flow of clients will improve greatly in the new clinic. Instead of having a client go from one service station to the next, she said the services will come to the client who will remain in one location.

“The client goes to the room and stays there, and we bring the various services to them. Doing that prevents the mom from having to drag three kids, a toddler and a car seat from one place to another.”

Raevsky called the system the “client-centered model,” which she installed at the Fuller Avenue clinic when she came here from California.

“What we are able to do at Sheldon is install that same client-centered focus,” she said.

“We will be able to see a lot more people a lot more efficiently.”

That efficiency will spread to the clinic’s group-education classes and actually put the word “group” back into the offerings. The new room will allow up to 10 to take part in a nutrition class.

“That’s not a confidential issue so it doesn’t have to be done one-on-one. Now we can do it in a group, which is a lot more cost effective in terms of time and for the patient,” said Raevsky.

About 14 people will work at the new clinic either full-time or as part-timers, and clients will have to make appointments. Raevsky moved the county clinics from allowing walk-ins to requiring appointments and she said it has resulted in better efficiency, as clients are serviced in a shorter amount of time.

Most of the Sheldon Clinic’s clientele in past years have been mothers and their children who qualify for the Women, Infants and Children special supplemental nutrition program. The clinic also saw quite a few senior citizens who would stop in to get their blood pressure checked. But Raevsky said the clinic’s staff has encouraged seniors to see their primary physicians instead.

“We don’t want people to get their blood pressure checked and think that means that everything is OK, especially if they’re elderly. We would rather have them going to their doctor, who can ask them questions and address other issues. That will keep them healthier for a lot longer than showing up at the clinic to get their blood pressure taken once in a while,” she said.

In addition to the new clinic, the Human Services Complex will also be home to the Department of Human Services and the Area Community Service Employment and Training agency. The state is leasing the DHS space from the county and ACSET owned the old Sheldon Complex, which housed the old clinic.

Raevsky said she is looking forward to the new clinic opening its doors next summer.

“Sheldon was the last one that really needed to be redone and, frankly, I give the county administrator and the county commissioners a lot of kudos for stepping up, especially after they saw the shape Sheldon was in. They really made it a priority,” she said.

“Unlike a lot of other places I’ve worked, this county doesn’t think that just because you’re a county employee, that means you have to work in sub-standard conditions. They want the employees to have good conditions, but more than that, they want the clients to have good conditions and be proud of the place they go and have it look nice for them, too. That is very important.” HQ

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