The better to serve

Community Health Center expansion promises brighter, bigger space

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Community Health Center COO Colleen Koester gives a tour of the newly remodeled center. There are four new dental areas, like this one, bringing the total up to eight, as well as more exam rooms and places for therapy work.

After about a year of work, a $1.6 million expansion project is complete at the Community Health Center of Fort Dodge.

The clinic at 126 N 10th St. has doubled its number of dental labs and nearly doubled the number of medical exam rooms, to better serve an increasing need.

“We had about 10,000 square feet of undeveloped space in the old Joselyn (Printing) building that was basically just used for storage,” said Colleen Koester, chief operating officer for the center.

Thanks to that new space, there are now eight dental ops, instead of four; and the center has gone from 11 to 21 exam rooms, Koester said. There are also new office spaces. But what visitors might notice first is the completely redesigned entry, which is now located farther south in the building.

“Before, we had two check-in locations,” she said. “Now, there’s one main check-in window.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter After a year-long, $1.6 million renovation and redesign, the Community Health Center has a new entrance, new reception area, and a new look inside and out. A ribbon cutting for the center will be held Aug. 14.

There will be a ribbon cutting at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 14, followed by an open house to show the new space until 6 p.m.

The center served 6,339 people in 2016, up from 5,886 patients in 2015, and the additional space was needed.

“We’ve always had excellent staff to meet people’s healthcare needs,” said Chief Executive Officer Renae Kruckenberg. “Now we have an expanded, welcoming facility to serve even more people and offer more resources, including mental health services for adults and children.”

Kruckenberg was instrumental in getting a $1 million grant through the Health Infrastructure Investment Program, Koester said.

“Her big thing is that we provide affordable, patient-centered health care to anybody and everybody, and we’re growing to be able to accommodate that,” Koester said. “This is what we’re here for, and what we strive to do, to provide healthcare services to anybody and everybody.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Community Health Center COO Colleen Koester, left, talks with nurse practitioner Lisa Chase in one of the new administrative "pods", which let staff all work together in the same room. Chase said the patients appreciate the new building, and the additional space means there's less waiting to see a specialist.

Since April 2016, the center has been offering mental health services, including therapy, medicine management and referrals for in-patient treatment. New rooms in the center offer more space for the therapist to work.

The new arrangement puts staff in “pods” so that, for instance, dental staff all come to one shared office when they’re not seeing patients.

That works well for Ann Feser, nurse practitioner.

“It gives us the opportunity to work closely together,” Feser said. “I work in the same area as my medical assistant, and the person who does scheduling for me and triages for me, we all work right in the same area. So there’s better continuity of care for our patients.”

More space means quicker service, said Lisa Chase, another nurse practitioner.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter The new reception area and waiting room at the Community Health Center lets all patients check in smoothly in one location, instead of requiring separate doors for dental and health clinic visitors.

“We have about double the space. It’s really nice. We get people in faster. It smells new. It looks new. … I think I’ve had every patient comment on it this morning, on how nice it looks.”

“To see the improvement go from where we were to where are now was just truly amazing,” Feser said. “The patients really like it.

“Before it was kind of dingy-looking. The paint color wasn’t very bright. Now our patients come in and say I don’t know if this is the right clinic, it looks pretty fancy in here.”

The center works with anyone, regardless of insurance, and staff can help people sign up for insurance, Koester said.

There’s also a sliding fee scale for any of its services for those who don’t have insurance.

“We have certified application counselors to help those people who are not insured to explore insurance options,” administrative assistant Deena McCaulley said, “and help them get signed up either through a state program or through federal government, through the marketplace.”

The Community Health Center has been in its location since 2006, and opened a satellite clinic in Dayton in July 2014.

Its roots go back to the late 1990s when local churches, physicians, agencies and businesses in Fort Dodge identified a need for medical and dental assistance in the community. Free clinics began in 1999, and federal funds began coming in 2005.

In the coming weeks, the Community Health Center will hold its first family fun run called “Run for the health of it” to raise money for a digital otoscope — equipment for ear examinations.

Its third annual Masquerade Ball will be held at Shimkat Motors on Oct. 7 raising money for the center’s operation.


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