Lowndes County will contract with Baptist Medical Group to provide an on-site primary care clinic for county employees.
Supervisors voted 4-0, with District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham recusing himself, in favor of the one-year contract with the health care provider. Brigham’s wife works for Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle in Columbus.
The clinic will provide care specifically for county employees and their dependents, according to Baptist Medical Group Executive Director of Operations Sean Nelson. He said the clinic will be housed at 2502 Fifth St. N., next to an existing BMG family clinic.
The clinic’s goal is ultimately to drive down premium costs for the entities that use it. However, Nelson noted regular visits to the clinic could help patients remain healthier overall.
“If they’re seeing their primary care provider regularly, we should be able to take care of everything,” he said. “As much as it is about costs, it’s as much about the quality of care for employees and dependents.”
Nelson said the clinic should open in early 2017, and details — such as hours of operation — are still being determined.
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said the county would pay $226,000 for BMG’s primary care clinic. He said that cost would cover everything, including staffing and space for the clinic.
Billingsley said that cost would hold if the City of Columbus and Columbus Light and Water employees join Lowndes County in the primary care clinic. If they do not, he said the county could still use the service, and the price would drop to about $105,400.
“Some of the proposals said it had to be the big group with us, the city and CLW,” Billingsley said. “Baptist said they could still do it even if it was just us.”
Medical Analysis frustrated with process
Lowndes County, along with the City of Columbus and CLW, held a joint public meeting in August to review a primary care clinic proposal from Mississippi-based provider Medical Analysis.
Medical Analysis offered a similar proposal for an on-site primary care clinic, and the three entities appeared poised to enter into an agreement on the clinic. However, a few days after the joint meeting, supervisors voted to allow providers to bid on the clinic after receiving complaints from local health care groups.
Medical Analysis Vice President for Business Development Todd Garlington told the Dispatch he was disappointed and frustrated with the process. He said he felt opening the matter up for bid after Medical Analysis already submitted a proposal put his company at a disadvantage.
“They were not able to not only get my pricing, but get my program and all the intricacies and pieces that make a successful on-site program what it is,” Garlington said.
“Anytime you do a closed bid, that’s what it’s supposed to be — a closed bid where when they sit down and look at (requests for proposals) they’re looking at everybody’s for the first time,” he added. “But everybody that bid on that contract had my bid. So yeah, we were at a definite disadvantage.”
The city and CLW have not yet voted on partnering with BMG.
Nelson said the clinic will provide the “full spectrum” of primary care, as well as other services such as preventative care, physicals and educational programs for employees. If patients need services not provided, such as surgery or to see a cardiologist, clinic staff can refer them to an appropriate specialist.
Two nurse practitioners and a doctor will staff the clinic, and county employees and their dependents can use it without copay.
BMG Director of Operations for the Golden Triangle Jannet Cranford said the clinic will work with Baptist Memorial to offer continuity of services, such as sending prescriptions from the clinic to the hospital’s pharmacy for employees to pick up.
She also pointed out that the clinic will use the same electronic medical records service as the hospital, which will allow for easy continuity between the facilities if needed.
Nelson said it would also allow providers to know if a patient needed to visit the emergency room after hours and follow up on quick notice, for example.
“The continuity of care with us as a provider, with our providers and with the hospital is a huge advantage for these patients,” Nelson said.
Cranford said the clinic should ultimately be a benefit for the county, as well as the city and CLW if they partner with BMG.
“We feel like we have a lot to offer, being in the community,” Cranford said. “We’re dedicated to being in this community with our health care system, and we feel like we have a lot to offer.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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