June 20, 2012

Today, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced awards of new grants to expand community health centers (CHCs), awarding six Oklahoma community health center applicants more than $3.6 million combined for establishing new health center delivery sites.  One of those sites is in Medford in Grant County Oklahoma.  Great Salt Plains Health Center, Inc. received $650,000 to establish the Medford site that plans to serve more than 1950 patients.    

  “This funding helps increase access to high quality health services,” said Tim Starkey, CEO, Great Salt Plains Health Center.  “More people will be able to get the affordable care they need in their communities.”   

 Community health centers provide a range of primary and preventive care services and are non-profit, community-directed organizations that serve everyone – insured and uninsured.  In 2010, CHCs served over 130,000 Oklahomans.  Great Salt Plains Health Center will offer a sliding fee scale to patients at or below 200% federal poverty level.  Services will include: Primary and Preventive Health Care as well as Dental and Behavioral Health Services.  The Medford site will be fully operational by 2013.

 “Not only will the site in Medford provide affordable health care, it will also serve as an economic engine for the community,” said John Austin, GSPHC Board President.

   For more information on community health centers, please visit www.okpca.org or www.gsphealth.org. 

Economic Stimulus Brings Funding to Cherokee GSPHC Renovation of former Alfalfa County Hospital Building 

Cherokee, Oklahoma, December 10, 2009 – On Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Primary Healthcare (a Division of HHS) announced an award of $2.8 million to Great Salt Plains Health Center for the purpose of renovating the former Alfalfa County Hospital. This old hospital is located in the same block as GSPHC and has been unoccupied since the 1990’s. The health center has contracted with McFarland Davies Architects of Tulsa, OK to develop plans for renovation of the facility for use as an outpatient clinic. The GSPHC Board of Directors voted in June to proceed with detailed drawings in hopes of securing the Economic Stimulus award. During a presentation in June, Connie S. McFarland of McFarland Davies Architects presented the architect’s preliminary site plan and floor plan for the facility. “When we put together all of the needs for the health center we needed just under 16,000 square feet. It just so happens that the building (Alfalfa County Hospital) is a 16,000 square foot facility. We did not set out to occupy the entire facility, it just happened that way” stated McFarland. She added, “Our goal is to preserve as much of the original facility as possible and still create simple usable workspace for the health center.” Since June, plans have been finalized to include enough space for 2 Family Medicine practitioners, 2 OB/Gyn practitioners, 1 Dentist, 3 Behavioral Health practitioners, and ancillary services to support these providers. According to the GSPHC board, a facility of this size will support the health care needs of the community for at least 10 to 20 years. Karen Hawkins, GSPHC Board President and other Board Members have dreamed of bringing affordable full-service primary healthcare back to Cherokee and are thrilled that the stimulus award will make their dreams a reality. They also plan to make services such as X-ray available for other area providers. These plans will be ready for bidding within a few weeks with construction scheduled to begin in a few months. Located at 400 S. Ohio in Cherokee, Great Salt Plains Health Center, Inc. is a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides Primary Healthcare, Dental, and Behavioral Health Services to Cherokee and the surrounding areas. Some patients come from more than 100 miles away to have access to these services which are provided at discounted fees depending on the patient’s income. Medical Director, Keenan Ferguson, DO, and Nurse Practitioner, Kristen Rickertsen, practice Family Medicine at the Great Plains Health Center; Dennis McFadden, DO provides Obstetrics and Gynecology services; and Linda Peck, LPC offers counseling services. Dental services provided by the Oklahoma Dental Foundation are limited at this time but will be available full time once the expansion project is complete. “We are very happy to be a part of the solution to healthcare access problems in Northwest Oklahoma,” stated Tim Starkey, GSPHC Executive Director. “Currently Dr. Keenan Ferguson is the only doctor in full time practice in Alfalfa County. Additionally, after renovation is complete, patients in Alfalfa County will be able to get their X-rays done in Cherokee. Services such as these have not been available since the hospital was closed more than 10 years ago. We are extremely blessed to have received the federal award. Only about 80 health centers throughout the nation were selected from more than 600 applications.

Great Salt Plains Health Center, Inc. announces purchase of Alfalfa County Hospital Building

Cherokee, Oklahoma, August 18, 2008 – The Great Salt Plains Health Center located at 400 S. Ohio announced today that it has purchased the building located adjacent to the Health Center. The building was originally constructed in the 1970’s by the Alfalfa County Hospital. The hospital subsequently closed during the 1990’s. Since that time, the building has been owned by private individuals.

GSPHC plans to use the building for future expansion as needed. Executive Director Tim Starkey stated, “The purchase of the former hospital building will allow the Health Center to expand as mandated in our federal grant. The government requires Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide Primary Care, Mental Health, and Dental services. The hospital will provide the space that we need to offer those services.”

GSPHC has no immediate plans for expansion into the hospital building. The building has been completely unoccupied for a number of years and will need a facelift before it will be ready for occupancy by the Health Center. “We are currently in the process of determining which systems are still operable and what will need to be replaced,” Starkey said. “We are also still going through a start-up phase at the Health Center. We still need a few months to finish creating an organization that is able to fully serve the community. It may be a year or two before we are able to use the hospital building to its full potential.” The Health Center began seeing patients in January and offers Family Medicine care 6 days per week as well as part-time counseling services. “We are still working to find a dentist that will agree to serve the tremendous amount of patients that we see with bad dental problems,” said Starkey. “One dentist that came to Cherokee for two days was totally overwhelmed and decided not to come back. We will continue to talk with dentists until we find one that will help us with this huge need.”

Dr. Keenan Ferguson begins his practice in Cherokee this week as well. Dr. Ferguson was previously in practice at the Integris Family Medicine Clinic in Enid. “We are extremely excited that Dr. Ferguson will be joining us,” said Starkey. “We are confident that the community will welcome Dr. Ferguson and will be very happy with the care that he provides. Dr. Ferguson will be a huge asset to healthcare in Cherokee.” Dr. Ferguson attended the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency in Family Practice at Mayo Clinic in 2006.

Great Salt Plains Health Center provides services to outpatients only and charges are based upon the patient’s income. Federally Qualified Health Centers receive federal grant money to assist with this mission. Tim Starkey added, “The building will not be used for any patients that need to stay in a hospital overnight. We have agreements with hospitals in the area to care for our patients if they need to be hospitalized.” The additional space will be used to serve clinic patients that are unable to afford the normal fees charged but may be able to see a physician based upon a reduced sliding fee scale. GSPHC also accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most Insurance plans.

“We are excited to be involved in healthcare in Cherokee and the surrounding area,” said Starkey. “As we continue to grow and are able to add services, we expect to see improvements in the general health of the medically underserved population. It is very exciting and rewarding to be a part of such an important community service.”