The basement of Albion College’s Munger Apartments has been gutted. Interior walls have been assembled and given a layer of white paint. Electrical wires and pipes are now uncovered. Construction workers drill, hammer and sing along to country music.
The basement will be the site of Marshall-based Oaklawn Hospital’s Albion clinic. Construction is set to conclude on Jan. 22.
The project is a cooperative effort between multiple regional partners. Albion College rented the property to Oaklawn for $1. Outgoing State Senator Mike Nofs secured an $850,000 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services grant and a $200,000 state grant for diagnostic equipment. The Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Cronin Foundation each provided $75,000 grants. Oaklawn is funding the balance of the $2 million project.
The clinic, slated to open in early February, will be the first express care clinic in the city’s center since Trillium Hospital closed in 2002. Currently, the closest health clinic is Oaklawn’s internal and family medicine clinic on B-Drive at the edge of town, a mile-and-a-half away from downtown Albion. For all other health needs, residents must drive 20 minutes to Oaklawn’s Marshall location.
The clinic will replace the Albion College’s Student Health Services as its students’ source for healthcare. Student Health Services will phase out once the Oaklawn clinic opens.
The hospital-college partnership is meant to expand and better healthcare services for Albion-area residents and college students.
A 2016 healthcare needs assessment conducted by Albion College psychology professors Eric Hill and Barbara Keyes found that nearly 62 percent of 269 surveyees said a lack of available services was a barrier to their healthcare. Nearly a third said a lack of transportation was a barrier.
“You [were] looking at close to 10,000 people in this area not having anything but a major drive,” said Gary Tompkins, Calhoun County commissioner for the Albion area. “This is phenomenal. This is well thought-of and well-needed.”
Better services for community and college students expected
The entrance of the new Albion clinic leads visitors two ways. To the right is the check-in for a regular clinic, where visitors must schedule appointments in advance.
To the left is the check-in for the clinic’s express care. Visitors can drop in for an appointment Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday hours may be offered depending on the need.
Albion residents and students will soon have the option to see a regular doctor or drop in during the evening for care in Albion rather than outside the city. Diagnostic equipment like X-rays, a general surgeon for some medical procedures, a lab and 12 exams rooms will be available.
Once the Albion city center clinic opens, the B-Drive North family and internal medicine staff and resources will transfer over. The B-Drive will still hold its rehabilitation and dialysis centers. Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E., a non-profit clinic for the elderly, will invest about $1.8 million to operate an offshoot Programs of Inclusive Care for the Elderly center in the vacant B-Drive space.
P.A.C.E., a Medicaid program, seeks to provide healthcare access and resources for the elderly who wish to stay in their home communities and not nursing homes.
“There’s going to be a dramatic expansion in care that’s available because if you need to see a doctor regularly, you can see a physician here,” said Richard Lindsey (’91), executive director of community and legal affairs for Oaklawn.
Oaklawn Medical Group management spoke with Student Health Service’s director Cheryl Krause to determine at what days and times of the year students most frequently visit Health Services. Krause’s determination will be applied to the future clinic’s staffing numbers.
Students will be able to use Albion’s Brit Bus service to travel to the clinic.
During Nov. 5’s Student Senate meeting, students voiced concerns of affordability of future campus healthcare. Student Health Services and Counseling Services have no out-of-pocket cost for students. At Oaklawn’s future clinic, students will be charged as they would at a typical clinic. Counseling Services will continue to have free services.
“We’re going to take care of every student,” said Lindsey.
If any visitor, student or not, is financially concerned about their visit, they can visit the clinic and meet with a representative the Albion Healthcare Alliance, who will help them find healthcare service and insurance options, private or public, that best suit them for free, he said. Students can also visit the AHCA, located behind the Bohm Theatre.
Out-of-state students who want to apply for Medicaid will need to apply for Michigan’s Medicaid, not their own state. They can schedule a free appointment with the AHCA for assistance.
The Fountain Clinic, a free healthcare provider based in Marshall, will also be available on-site four hours a week in Munger. All visitors need to do is schedule a meeting with the Fountain Clinic in advance.
According to Krause, who will help students transition to the new service through the next semester, all visitors will be taken care of at Oaklawn and at the Fountain Clinic regardless of citizenship status.
Oaklawn is scheduling meetings with the Calhoun County Health Department to provide birth control at no cost. The Department has an Albion location across the street from Munger.
Pre-med Albion College students may have an added benefit of the hospital-college partnership. The Wilson Institute for Medicine may be located on the first floor of Munger Apartments, and its students could have the ability to volunteer at the clinic.
Flyers highlighting common Oaklawn services will be distributed around Albion’s campus.
Correction: 11/13/2018, 10:47 a.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Oaklawn’s upcoming clinic would be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The previous version stated that the new clinic will be the first healthcare facility in Albion since 2002. Rather, it will be the first clinic with hours extending past 5 p.m. since 2002. Changes have been made.