County, State Funds To Help Improve Health Center

SNOW
HILL – With a substantial grant from the state and some help from Worcester
County, Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) plans to expand the Atlantic Health
Center clinic to provide more services and accommodate more patients.

“Right
now, we’re seeing 12,000 people a year through that clinic,” said Michael
Franklin, President and CEO of AGH.

That
number is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next several years,
according to Franklin.

The
renovated and expanded building, roughly 9,700 square feet, will continue to
offer the well used primary care clinic, which will take up about half the
expanded space.

The
clinic, which is located adjacent to the hospital, serves the uninsured, and
the underinsured, primarily, Franklin said, and gives those patients access to
board certified practitioners.

“The
health department is very supportive of the hospital’s plans to expand the
Atlantic Health Center,” said Debbie Goeller, Worcester County Health Officer.
“That expansion is really an important one and one we’re very glad to see.”

Those
with no or not enough insurance “are forced to make choices on how they spend
their money,” Goeller said. “It’s good to have access to care for those people
who can’t afford it.”

A
diabetes patient education and care center will be added to accommodate the
American Diabetes Association certified program begun in 2006.

“The
diabetes rate on the Eastern Shore is twice that of the rest of the state,”
Franklin said.

“Diabetes
is a significant health issue in Worcester County,” Goeller said. “This really
responds to a community need.”

Care
for diabetes patients to control the disease can prevent greater health
problems like cardiovascular disease, she said.

The
health department has a long history of working with the hospital on community
health needs, and has collaborated with AGH to identify individuals with
diabetes and those at risk of developing the disease, and on educational
programming.

The
center will provide individual case management, treatment for diabetes and
counseling on diet and exercise, all services designed to allow a patient to
manage the condition him or herself.

Outpatient
pulmonary services will be added to the clinic. “There’s a large need on the
shore for pulmonary care,” Franklin said.

The
need for services has outgrown those available at AGH, which offers the only inpatient
and outpatient pulmonary care in the county.

A
child advocacy center will be established, the only one on the lower shore, to
treat and examine child victims of abuse and assault. Statistics show that
Worcester County Social Services, in one recent year, investigated 476 cases,
with 100 needing a forensic medical examination.

There
will be a separate entrance for the advocacy center, and the space will be

planned to provide privacy to victims.          

Mental
health care at the clinic will get a boost in the future, Franklin said.

“We’re
hearing more and more about shortages. We’re seeing more and more people show
up in the emergency department with mental health issues,” he said.

Care
at the clinic can prevent hospital visits and the more costly levels of healthcare,
he said,

The
Worcester County Commissioners agreed to redirect their capital hospital
contribution of $250,000 to the clinic expansion.

A
Maryland state grant of $700,000 will cover half the work, but AGH needs to
raise the rest of the funding, $450,000, within two years to retain the state
monies.

“I
think we’re very fortunate to have a hospital that has such a strong community
focus and addresses community needs,” said Goeller. “This expansion is a good
thing.”

 

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