St. GEORGE – Looking at the new 33,000-square-foot medical complex emerging from Dinosaur Crossing, Family Healthcare’s CEO said the southern Utah health provider was completing a metamorphosis.
“I feel like we were a cocoon. And now we’ve become the big butterfly and we can do all the cool things we need to do,” said Lori Wright, CEO of Family Healthcare.
The grand opening of Family Healthcare’s new flagship health center on August 16 was marked with pomp and fanfare after two years of construction. The first patients will be accepted on Monday.
The new center at 2276 Riverside Drive will replace Family Healthcare’s clinics in downtown St. George and Millcreek High School, which are closing to make way for the new state-of-the-art facility.
Maria Griselda Briseno has worked as a medical assistant for 18 years at the Millcreek location, where Washington County School District students had medical visits for a $10 co-pay. He said he didn’t mind moving to the new facility next door, especially when his old clinic was nothing more than a classroom building.
“It’s really a blessing to see this finally happen. And we got to be here,” Briseno said. “We want to be a good thing for the community.”
The new facility, which cost $12 million, is designed to be a one-stop shop with the potential to serve nearly 30,000 patients a year. While people typically have to go to separate facilities for their physical health, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy needs, the Riverside Clinic houses all four of these services. It is conceivable that someone could get a checkup, see a therapist, get a filling and fill their prescriptions in the same building.
“In this facility, providers don’t have their own office. They sit next to their MA (physician assistant) every day, all day. And we have behavioral health space for them to sit or care coordinators or community health workers,” Wright said. “If you come to see us, we’ll take care of you.”
While not its only clientele, Family Healthcare has specialized in local residents who are at the lower end of the income bracket, with 45% of patients in a low-income category. The clinic uses a sliding scale to determine payments based on a person’s income, and according to Family Healthcare, 6 out of 10 of its patients are underinsured or uninsured. This includes being able to provide drugs like insulin to diabetic patients at prices below the $100 line.
“This is one of the few places that takes any patient, whether they’re funded or uninsured, and then helps them find ways to get services,” said Family Healthcare board member Sherry Dial.
But Wright was also quick to say that helping low-income people get medical care doesn’t mean offering reduced service.
“We benchmark our quality of care against all the providers in this community. A lot of Intermountain clinics, Revere clinics … we’re at the top of providing high-quality care,” Wright said, and he added that Family Healthcare has to be creative to keep the price down. “The price might be good, but it might also mean we’re making things a little more unique.”
Family Healthcare is not a full substitute for the care provided by St. Louis Regional Hospital. George from Intermountain Healthcare. In fact, hospital officials attended the grand opening and said they consider themselves partners. But both Wright and Intermountain officials said family health care plays an important role in southern Utah, especially in keeping uninsured and low-income residents from using the hospital’s emergency room like a kind of health clinic.
Among Family Healthcare’s patients is someone who isn’t necessarily in that lower-income bracket: local business owner and artist Elise West, known for her Affogato West coffee shop. West was at the grand opening, partly in gratitude and partly to help provide refreshments.
West said the medical provider lives up to its name.
“I really feel like they’re family. I’ve never hesitated to call my doctor because I know in a few hours I’ll get a phone call and something can be set up. And they can often see me that day or shortly after. So they’re always very attentive ” West said. “This past year has been a health challenge for me. So I’ve been able to go through a lot and know that they’ve been with me every step of the way … it’s a big difference. It’s, it’s definitely different.”
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