Small SD town comes together to save health clinic

KENNEBEC, S.D. (AP) — Residents of the central South Dakota town of Kennebec have come together to save their health clinic.

When Sanford Health closed its mobile clinic in the town of 250 people a year ago because of declining patient numbers, residents called a meeting and pledged $65,000 that became seed money for a new clinic aligned with the Avera health network. The Avera clinic was dedicated last week and will open next month, the Argus Leader newspaper reported (http://argusne.ws/1buHrYx ).

“The people here were used to having a medical facility in downtown Kennebec,” said Herb Sundall, 65, who has lived in the town since the 1940s. “The thought of having to go somewhere else was not something that was acceptable.”

Money started coming in the morning after the community meeting. It was put into a trust overseen by a local service agency, the Kennebec Town and Country Club. About $112,000 came in over several months, surpassing the initial goal of $100,000. Sponsors used $75,000 to buy a house that state inmates had built in Springfield and move it to Kennebec. Setting it up as a clinic with a foundation, utilities, curb and gutter has cost about $140,000, which organizations hope donations will cover.

The service club turned the property over to the city. Avera is leasing the space, and its hospitals in Sioux Falls and Mitchell are sharing the operating costs.

The clinic has two exam rooms, a lab and nurse’s station, an office and a waiting room. Dale Gillogly, regional administrator for Avera McKennan Hospital, said Avera will staff it two or three days a week with a doctor or midlevel professional from Chamberlain.

The network will subsidize the clinic but also use it to spread its e-medicine service model, in which nurses tending to patients communicate electronically with doctors at a central hub in Sioux Falls.

“Part of what we’re trying to figure out is, ‘what’s the savings?'” Gillogly said. “If e-medicine works well, that will save us a part of a staff member’s cost. We’ll see what the bottom line looks like.”

The new clinic is on the site of the old one.

“Sanford was kind enough to donate the lots,” Sundall said. “There are no hard feelings. At the end of the day, they may have done us a favor.”

It’s not the first time Kennebec residents have come together for a project. About a decade ago, they secured a $100,000 state grant and put up another $160,000 in donations and volunteer time to build a new fire hall that also serves as a community meeting room.

“This community can come together and do something when they want to,” said Rod Bowar, 51, a lifelong resident.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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