WATERTOWN – With the 50th anniversary of the North Country Family Health Center on Tuesday, as well as celebrations via Zoom due to the pandemic, the organization will celebrate by kicking off planning for an expansion and renovation of its main campus.
The project will add 1,700 square feet to the main campus building, expanding its primary care department of family medicine. Two exam rooms will become negative pressure rooms to be used for patients with symptoms of COVID-19 and for aerosol procedures such as nebulizer treatments.
Part of the addition, 360 square feet at the northwest end of the building, will accommodate a growing clinical support workforce and may be converted into other patient service areas in the future, according to Requirement. The project will also modify an existing 900 square feet to connect the current structure to the new structure, including some minor renovations to the clinical space, including a new expanded lab area.
“The expansion is wonderful for the patients and also for our staff because the demand is so high – which is great that we have the providers and can see the patients – but at the moment we are working in quite cramped quarters. “April said. Fallon, director of marketing and community relations. “So this will allow for a large workspace and better exam room space for patients.”
Along with the Health Resources and Services Administration award at the North Country Family Health Center in the amount of $639,843, the center will invest in supporting the main campus expansion and renovations, 238 Arsenal St. The project budget, including construction costs, fees and equipment, totals nearly $1.2 million. The remaining $555,899 will come from the health center’s non-federal secured funds.
Since the start of the pandemic, the health center has started offering COVID-19 rapid PCR tests to all community members in an outdoor and in-car format. The expansion project will allow the center to have additional dedicated lab space for COVID-19 testing machines given the very limited lab space in the current floor plan. The creation of a dedicated, covered outdoor COVID-19 testing area for two cars will protect health center staff from inclement weather.
“Keeping people out of the elements is great for our staff and also for people who come in who don’t really feel the best to begin with,” Ms Fallon said. “Our staff will come in through a door just outside the new wing and can just walk out. People call a number, it’s written on it in the carport and the nurse comes straight to the car to do the test. So people might not think a carport is that exciting, but it’s extremely important in a testing situation and much more convenient for patients.
The center is experiencing significant growth in its workforce to meet the needs of the organization and the service area. The Department of Quality and Population Health – which focuses on the social determinants of health that impact access to care, contribute to poor health outcomes and exacerbate health disparities – does not have adequate work space. A basement renovation will create six shared office cubicles and three private offices for the department.
Since COVID-19, NCFHC has deployed greater use of telemedicine and dictation for its providers. The change in service provision and the use of dictation has resulted in the need for more private space for providers to work. The project will allow for smaller office spaces for vendors rather than one large open vendor office.
“Telehealth is a wonderful opportunity; COVID has forced a lot of health care providers to do this, everyone has kind of gone through their learning curve, they’re pretty good at it,” Ms. Fallon said. “We use it in our school systems and part of our renovation will allow our providers to have more private space to do telehealth.”
The NCFHC has had a strong focus over the past year on meeting the primary care needs of its service area and as a result has recruited two new physicians in 2020 and 2021, a pediatrician and a fully boarded pediatrician and physician of internal medicine. The Department of Family Medicine space does not have enough exam rooms to adequately meet the needs of its growing team.
Department expansion will add 1,700 square feet to the north end of the main campus building with five new exam rooms, new patient washroom, new provider office, new shared office for staff clinical support, a new bathroom for staff and an outdoor carport for testing.
The project will also include 900 square feet of renovations to the current clinical area to convert a storage room into a sixth exam room; transform a current exam room into a clean supply and STAT lab; modify the supplier’s current shared office into three separate offices; and divide a large office into two offices for clinical staff.
Finally, the project will include the renovation of 1,450 square feet of basement space on the main campus to create additional office space for the Quality and Population Health Department. The project includes the purchase of new clinical equipment and examination room furniture.
A call for tenders for tenders will be sent out by the end of the year. A contract decision is expected in January and construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2022. The project is expected to be completed by the end of next summer. HOLT Architects PC is the architect of the project.
NCFHC serves approximately 15,000 people in Jefferson and Lewis counties. The Children’s Clinic began with a clinic in 1971. In 2012, the Children’s Clinic became a federally licensed health care center and since then has been able to provide services to entire families, Ms. Fallon said.
Now the NCFHC is made up of four health centers – two in Watertown, one in LeRay and one in Lowville. It also has school sites in the City of Watertown and South Jefferson school districts. Ms Fallon said the center also has six or seven other dedicated dental sites stretching from Alexandria Bay to South Lewis School.
“Having a 50th birthday is pretty darn amazing,” Ms. Fallon said. “We are very proud to have a community health center here in Watertown and to have been able to survive for 50 years – not just to survive, but to really thrive and expand the services that we are able to provide to the community”.