By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – The Yalobusha General Rural Health Clinic, the county’s new $2.2 million family medical facility, opened Tuesday to rave reviews from patients.
“It’s wonderful. Absolutely gorgeous,” commented a patient early Tuesday morning in one of the two waiting rooms.
Others echoed her comments. The closest thing to complaints came from patients shivering from the cold air being let in by the automatic doors.
Clinic Administrator Joe Meurrier described opening day as hectic. “But, that’s what we expected and that’s what we wanted.”
Meurrier, who handles day-to-day operations, added that when coming into a new facility there are always some minor problems. “But, those problems will be rectified for our patients.”
The clinic is not only state-of-the-art, but also one-of-a-kind, according to Hospital Administrator Terry Varner. “You have rural health clinics that are built inside a hospital, but you don’t have hospital services built inside of a rural health clinic. It’s a different model we came up with.”
The new 12,800 square foot building cost $1.8 million to build and another $400,000 to equip. It includes a laboratory as well as x-ray, ultrasound, bone density screening equipment and the mobile MRI unit will be stationed there on Mondays instead of at the hospital. “It’s definitely a different concept,” Varner said.
In the past patients would go to the clinic to see a doctor and then have to go to the hospital and check in to have procedures done. Then the results would be sent back to the clinic.
But, by having the clinic hospital based and bringing in all the hospital services, doctors can get their results quicker. “It’ll be great for the patients and the doctors will utilize the services more,” Varner added.
The clinic has a shared reception area and waiting rooms on each side that mirror each other. “Physicians want a little autonomy. That’s why we built the two waiting room,” Varner said. “That kind of keeps them separate. They’re not right on top of each other.”
Currently Dr. Paul Odom and Dr. Heidi Pratt staff the facility along with three full-time nurse practitioners. Additional part-time nurse practitioners help out on weekends.
Varner expects to add two more doctors. “We’re going to have one in the next month or so and then one around June.”
“When Doctor Walker retired we kind of had to refocus because we had only two providers instead of three,” said Varner. “I’ve spent the better part of two months recruiting doctors. I’ve been to Florida a couple of times and to Tennessee.”
Varner added that he was surprised at the number of doctors who have expressed an interest in moving here. “I’m trying to find somebody who fits in with the other doctors, but mainly with our patients. You could be a good doctor somewhere else and not have the personality that patients here are going to like.”
“We’ve ended up turning away people because we want that perfect fit,” he said.
Also, hospital officials are looking at the possibility of bringing in some sub-specialists. Varner said that he will be meeting with a group from the University of Tennessee at Memphis who have staff with time available and want to come and provide services.
Clinic hours are from 7:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. except for Friday when the clinic closes at 5:30 p.m. It is open Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.
There will be an open house for the grand opening this Sunday, Jan. 10, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.