By Julia Merulla
Following receipt of a federal grant, a new health care facility is being planned in Warsaw in an attempt to increase Wyoming County residents’ access to medical care.
Oak Orchard Health Warsaw will be designated as a federally qualified health center, helping it to serve uninsured or underinsured residents. The facility will accept all patients, regardless of insurance or lack thereof.
Oak Orchard Health Warsaw will be built at 81 S. Main St., with an estimated completion date of May 2013.
The planning board for the Town and Village of Warsaw approved a site plan Tuesday night for the one-story facility, with the condition that an updated site plan including a sidewalk be submitted.
The facility will offer medical and dental services to people of all ages in Wyoming County. The project looks to fill a need based on community health assessments, the most recent of which indicated that access to care was an issue among county residents.
The Wyoming County Department of Health and the Brockport-based Oak Orchard Community Health Center are among the organizations that collaborated the make the facility possible.
“Oak Orchard put an application in summer 2010 as part of an invitation from the federal government for existing health centers like ourselves to establish new satellite sites,” said project manager Dave Fisher, of Oak Orchard.
“We started looking at the best way as a county to build a (grant) application that would be funded,” said Laura Paolucci, public health administrator for the Wyoming County Department of Health.
Oak Orchard’s history in serving community health needs added strength to the application, Paolucci said.
Initially, the request was denied, but following a new round of funding, the plans were accepted about six months ago, Fisher said. The annual award for the center is $650,000.
“This is a real opportunity for the community, and I’m pleased that the project was funded,” Paolucci said.
Jim Rutowski is the developer for the project, and because grant money cannot be used to build the center, he will develop the property then rent it out to Oak Orchard.
Four clinically licensed employees will be hired initially, Fisher said. Oak Orchard is looking for a physician – particularly one with a background in family medicine to work with patients of various ages – as well a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. A dentist and dental hygienist will also be brought on board.
Additionally, the facility will need a support staff of nurses and assistants. In total, the equivalent of about 15 full-time employees will be hired to start, Fisher said.
The facility will also have the capability of adding one or two more physicians and one or two more dentists, Fisher said. Rutowski said the building will be designed to accommodate this possibility.
“We are projecting in the initial year that there would be about 4,200 or 4,400 clients and hopefully grow from there,” Fisher said.
The designation as a federally qualified health center also means the facility is required to provide “comprehensive primary care services,” which includes substance abuse and mental health, in additional to family health and dental care, Fisher said. Oak Orchard Health Warsaw will provide those services through a partnership with Spectrum Human Services in Warsaw.
“We will take their patients and they will take our patients, regardless of insurance, and vice versa,” Fisher said.
Rutowski said the facility is intended to supplement medical care in the county.
“Many of practices in Wyoming County are closed to new patients because there are not enough providers to take care of the patients that we do have,” Rutowski said.
Those involved with the project also indicated the facility will help out Wyoming County Community Hospital by allowing for underinsured or uninsured people to seek care at Oak Orchard Health Warsaw instead of heading to the emergency room.
With plans coming together to get the groundbreaking started, Fisher is tasked with finding the employees.
“To the extent that we can hire folks locally, we will certainly plan on doing that,” Fisher said.