HARWICH PORT — Outer Cape Health Services, Inc. held a ribbon cutting at its new community health center Tuesday, making a commitment to providing more all-inclusive health care here and on the Outer Cape.
The doors to the new medical center located across from Saquatucket Harbor will be open on Monday morning with a commitment to serving the entire community whether health insurance is available or not. The types of medical service to be provided will encompass infants through elderly citizens and address critical concerns such as opioid addiction and mental health issues.
“Six months ago this was a dream and now the comments we're getting is 'I'm speechless',” Outer Cape Health Services CEO Pat Nadle said of citizen response to the new facilities in the former Thompson's Farm Market. “We'll provide access to health care services that will keep this community and the Outer Cape healthy.”
“This is a game changer for this part of Cape Cod,” said Ninth District Congressman Bill Keating. “It's making a tomorrow for children with much more healthier lives.”
More people are saying they're staying on Cape year-round because they have confidence they can get the medical services they need, he said.
“This is a win,” Keating said of the new community health center.
Nadle praised the efforts of Keating and his staff for being so helpful in “untangling some of the bureaucracy” with federal funding. “They moved mountains for us.”
OCHS' decision to renovate the former market instead of constructing a new medical center at the former Stone Horse Motel site in South Harwich saved $15 million in taxpayers' money, Keating said.
The commitment to providing inclusive health care to the entire population was a recurring theme during presentations on Tuesday. Pam French, president of the OCHS board of directors, said the new center will fill a lot of unmet medical needs on the Outer Cape.
“We'll help anyone, regardless of their ability to pay,” French said. “ We'll accept all health insurance and help people to get health insurance. This is your community health center.”
Town Administrator Christopher Clark said he heard of OCHS's vision about six months after he started working in Harwich five years ago, and it was satisfying to see it come to fruition. In his position he studies a lot of graphics about the Cape and said there are a lot of poor people here who don't get the medical services they need. “This center will take care of all,” he said.
Nadle praised the cooperation the agency received from the town during the planning and permitting process, saying local officials have their “fingerprints” on making the facility possible. She praised the project architect and construction firm, and also thanked property owners Tom and Trish Kennedy for a historic donation they made to OCHS.
“It's really amazing to have a vision that took place so long ago come to life,” Trish Kennedy said on Tuesday. “ Working with Pat Nadle is a dream come true. She was a driving force.”
“It means everyone will have access to health care and that is the bottom line,” said Selectman Larry Ballantine, a member of the OCHS board of directors. “Getting a Medicare card doesn't mean you have access to health care. We wanted to have a place in Harwich where people can get health care.”
Ballantine said he's been approached by people living in the senior housing complex at the Melrose looking for a place in town where they can get a primary physician and health care near by. The new OCHS facility will fill that need, he said.
On Tuesday, the close to 100 people in attendance at the ribbon-cutting were provided with tours of the new facilities. The center will have 16 examination rooms in two pods; two medical health rooms; a room for women, infants and children and to assist low income families in obtaining food and vouchers; and a healthy connections office to assist people with connections to health insurance and other health-related needs.
Fire Chief Norman Clarke wanted to know whether the pods would be set up separating patients by age. Dr. Matt Libby, the medical director of the center, said they would not, that each pod would serve infants through to the elderly. “That's an amazing concept,” Clarke added.
Clarke also wanted to know if the center would have x-ray capabilities. Libby said it would not, that patients in need of an x-ray will be sent to the Fontaine Medical Center in East Harwich. Clarke praised the inclusion of an ambulance dock even though the center will not serve as an urgent care facility. He said they have to move through the lobby at Fontaine when there is a heart issue there.
Libby said the center will be providing services to address opioid addiction and behavioral issues, working with patients and getting them connected to resources. The medical director said there will be three physicians and himself working at the center, two full-time nurse practitioners and a psychological nurse practitioner. Two of the three physicians will do substance abuse treatment, Libby said.
Quest Lab will have an office here and there will be a pharmacy to provide prescriptions issued at the center, he said. There will be room in the schedules of physicians to take walk-ins, he added, but there have not been many at OCHS' office on Chatham Road. New patients are being accepted at the new facility, he said.
The health center will open at 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 5 and the office on Chatham Road is scheduled to close its door at 3 p.m. on this Friday. The hours for the new health center are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 8 a.m to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays.