The new Johnson City Community Health Center is on schedule to open this fall, allowing thousands more patients access to health care through East Tennessee State University’s nurse managed clinic.
Ian Watson, Tennessee Board of Regents construction representative, said construction on the project began in September and should finish by mid-August.
“We’re in the home stretch now,” he said.
The walls are up, the plumbing and mechanical operations to the rooms are nearly complete. Drywall was going up this past week.
The 30,000-square-foot facility was funded by a $6.8 million grant provided by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. ETSU’s colleges of nursing and rehabilitative health sciences collaborated on the grant.
The health center, located at 2151 Century Lane, will replace the Johnson City Downtown Clinic at 207 E. Myrtle Ave.
Richard Melke, executive director for the College of Nursing’s community health centers, said there will be six dental chairs in this clinic, audiology booths, a radiology operation, a pharmacy and physical therapy space.
“As we move from the Downtown Clinic we’re going from eight exam rooms to 23 exam rooms,” Melke said. “We can offer so much more for the community and for our patients. Last year we saw about 4,300 patients and we expect that to really increase by 1,000 or 2,000.”
After the construction is complete, furniture will need to be moved in. The planned opening for the facility is Oct. 1.
The College of Nursing leases the current Downtown Clinic. That lease will cease, but the nearby Johnson City Downtown Day Center that mainly serves the city’s homeless population will remain open, as will the clinic at the Johnson City Housing Authority’s Keystone community.
The Downtown Clinic was originally established in 1990 by the College of Nursing to care for downtown’s homeless population. Since then the mission has expanded to include uninsured patients or underinsured patients. No one is turned away due to inability to pay.
About 70 percent of the patients who go to the clinic are uninsured.
There are currently five providers who practice at the clinic. The new facility will allow for eight providers.
Melke said it may be necessary to hire technicians or a dentist to work in the new facility, but students will certainly be able to gain experience there.
“We’re working a lot with our students,” Melke said. “And this would be a great opportunity for our students to have this exposure to practice and this environment in this building and be prepared to work in rural health settings around the country.”