Brittney Lohmiller/ Savannah Morning News
Members of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, Marathon Health and Chatham County Employee Health Center workers cut the ribbon on the new health care center Tuesday. The new center is licensed to diagnose, treat and prescribe a wide variety of illnesses and injuries.
By Marcus E. Howard
Beginning today, Chatham County government employees will have a new place to seek health care.
The doors of a new health facility, located at 813 East 68th St. in Savannah’s Medical Arts area, will be open to thousands of employees who can obtain primary care without having to take out their wallets for co-payments.
The idea for an employee health clinic arose from a desire to control rising health care costs and improve the health of employees, many of whom were found to be suffering from obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and other health risks.
About 1,400 employees currently covered by the county’s medical plan will be eligible for free visits to the clinic. They were mailed information packets and can schedule appointments online. Next year, about 2,100 dependents will become eligible to receive services.
An increasing number of governments in the state and around the country have opened similar clinics that are seen as a viable way to lower medical costs through preventive care, while boosting the productivity of healthier employees.
According to the county, its clinic will “diagnose, treat and prescribe a wide variety of common illnesses and injuries. In addition to sick care, employees will have access to a full range of health assessment, coaching and disease management services.”
In February, county commissioners awarded a $618,798 annual contract to Vermont-based Marathon Health to manage the clinic. A consultant has estimated that the county could save $5 million over the next five years.
Carolyn Smalls, county human resources director, said officials should have an idea of how effective the clinic is a year from now, when costs, claims and other data can be compared. Included in the contract with Marathon Health are performance measures.
“We’ll be evaluating a lot of factors over the course of the next year to determine what the actual cost savings have been,” Smalls said.
The clinic, which is being leased from a dentist by the county, once served as a medical office and already contained exam rooms. Commissioners received a tour of the space Tuesday afternoon.
Following minor renovation work that included flooring and countertop replacement, along with fresh coats of paint, the clinic’s staff spent the past two weeks preparing for today’s opening.
A full-time nurse practitioner, part-time registered nurse and full-time medical assistant will staff the facility, Smalls said. The clinic’s operating hours are 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. other weekdays.