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Extreme Makeover: Free Clinic Edition

The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation spearheads the “extreme makeover” of the Dr. Nick Palmer/Jim Ellefson Free Clinic – the last of six area Free Clinics needing to be transformed by the charity.


Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation spearheads the “extreme makeover” of the Dr. Nick Palmer/Jim Ellefson Free Clinic – the last of six area Free Clinics needing to be transformed by the charity.

A few weeks ago, approximately 75 healthcare providers, staff, and family members from The Iowa Clinic descended upon 1607 East 33rd Street in Des Moines. Armed with hammers, paintbrushes, and other tools of the construction trade, their mission was to give an “extreme makeover” to the 80-year-old building – known since 2001 as the Dr. Nick Palmer/Jim Ellefson Free Medical Clinic.

At the end of the three-day event, this Free Clinic – one of more than 30 statewide – sparkled with newly tiled floors, updated plumbing, new cabinetry, and a fresh coat of paint. Repairs were also made to the exterior and new signage was installed to make it easier for patients to find the clinic.

“At Free Clinics of Iowa, we run on a shoe-string budget. We felt so fortunate to receive the first makeover in 2005. The fact that The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation and Ryan Companies have transformed all these Free Clinics to provide dignified, compassionate care – and they’ve done it for a decade – is just phenomenal.” -Wendy Gray, Executive Director, Free Clinics of Iowa

MORE THAN A FACELIFT

“The way Free Clinics function has changed a lot since the Palmer/Ellefson clinic opened in 2001,” says Wendy Gray, Executive Director of Free Clinics of Iowa. “In the next year alone, this makeover will benefit over 40 volunteers, nearly 1,000 patients, and the entire community.

“For medical volunteers, it improves clinic operations – patient flow is better, and the lab and pharmacy areas are more efficient. For patients, the atmosphere is more private and aesthetically uplifting, which helps them receive care that feels more considerate and respectful,” she says.

And because the clinic treats everyday illnesses as well as chronic conditions – diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, for example ­­— uninsured and underinsured individuals are better able to manage those conditions. “This reduces their risk of major health events and costly emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” explains Abbie Ruisch, D.O., a Family Medicine physician with The Iowa Clinic and co-chair of The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation.

POST ACA, FREE CLINICS ARE STILL NECESSARY

“Many people believed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would lessen the need for Free Clinics. That hasn’t been the case,” says Brandy Waters, who directs operations for the Medical Specialty Care division of The Iowa Clinic and co-chairs The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation.

Although more people may have medical insurance, Waters says more people have high deductible health plans that don’t provide coverage for preventive care or seeing a doctor when they’re sick.

“Free Clinics give patients access to basic healthcare they can afford,” Waters says. “Whether it’s a Free Clinic or other things The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation is involved in, it’s awe-inspiring to see the actual impact of what we do. People are so grateful,” she says.

One of those people is Gray: “At Free Clinics of Iowa, we run on a shoe-string budget. We felt so fortunate to receive the first makeover in 2005. The fact that The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation and Ryan Companies have transformed six of the eight Free Clinics in the metro to provide dignified, compassionate care – and they’ve done it for a decade – is just phenomenal.”

THE DIFFERENCE SIX MAKEOVERS HAVE MADE

To illustrate the importance of these “extreme makeovers,” Dr. Ruisch recalls volunteering at a Free Clinic while she was a medical student at Des Moines University. Located in a church basement, there was little privacy, scant equipment, and significant space limitations that made providing private, quality patient care challenging.

Those difficult conditions completely changed when The Iowa Clinic Health Foundation made over that space a few years ago.

“We had private exam rooms fully stocked with everything we needed. It made such a huge difference in patient care; we were able to see more people, care for them better and more privately, and give them more dignity,” says Ruisch, who now serves as that Free Clinic’s medical director.

“We’ve been told by Free Clinics of Iowa that they don’t have any more (area) clinics in need of significant renovations after this one. Should a need arise in the future, we would be excited to jump on board,” Ruisch says.

MAKING IS POSSIBLE

As with all six area makeovers, the Nick Palmer/Jim Ellefson Free Clinic makeover was the result of teamwork: The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation provided financial support; Ryan Construction served as general contractor, and; The Iowa Clinic providers, staff, and family members provided many hours of manpower.

The Extreme Makeover of the Dr. Nick Palmer/Jim Ellefson Free Clinic

COMPLETED

November 2015

FUNDING

The Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation

FLOOR PLANS & CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT

Provided by Ryan Construction

SQUARE FOOTAGE

1,400 sq. ft.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • The Iowa Clinic physicians, staff and family members
  • Ryan Construction

SUBCONTRACTORS

  • Allied Construction Services, Inc.
  • Architectural Arts, Inc.
  • Baker Group
  • Color, Inc.
  • Commonwealth Electric Company of the Midwest
  • Doors, Inc.
  • Poindexter Flooring, Inc.
  • Triplett

METRO-AREA FREE IOWA CLINIC LOCATIONS

Free Clinics of Iowa is a donor-supported, not-for-profit organization aimed at providing access to basic healthcare services to Iowans who are uninsured or underinsured. Each location is run by physicians, nurses, and staff who volunteer their time.

No appointment necessary. For more information, visit FreeClinicsOfIowa.org.

* denotes year of makeover

DES MOINES

Christ the King Free Clinic

5711 SW 9th Street

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Mondays

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays is Pediatric Clinic

Corinthian Family Health Free Clinic *2009

814 School Street

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Saturdays

Dr. Nick Palmer/Jim Ellefson Free Medical Clinic *2015

1607 East 33rd Street

1:30 – 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays

5:30 – 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays

Grace United Methodist Church Free Clinic *2014

3700 Cottage Grove

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays

5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Patient Registration

Healthy Choices Free Clinic of Iowa

Highland Park Presbyterian Church, 321 Euclid

4:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Mondays

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. Patient Registration

Margaret Cramer Clinic *2007

First Assembly of God Church, 2725 Merle Hay Road

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays

5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Patient Registration

WAUKEE:

Waukee Area Christian Free Clinic *2011

1155 SE Boone Drive

5:30-7:00 p.m. on Mondays

WEST DES MOINES:

Mae E. Davis Free Medical Clinic *2005

Eddie Davis Community Center, 1312 Maple St.

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Tuesdays

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on the 3rd Tuesday of the month is Orthopedic Clinic

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