WINSLOW, Ariz. - While the grand opening of the new Winslow Indian Health Care Center (WIHCC) is not until Sept. 12, patients are already receiving care at the newly opened building.
The new 35,500 square foot facility was built at a cost of $16.8 million and took approximately 18 months to complete. No federal money was used to build the new medical office building. An agreement between WIHCC and the Indian Health Service allowed the center to be built on federal land.
Frank Armao, chief medical officer at WIHCC, said a steady increase in demand for services and unmet needs is a major reason the center was built.
"Since we left the federal system and became a 638 facility, we've had an expansion of services, a tremendous increase in patient visits," Armao said.
The center also outgrew its old building years ago; modular buildings dot the campus. Further complicating staff efforts, the old building is classified as historic and no real work needed to accommodate patients could take place in the building.
While the federal government had promised a major new facility in Dilkon, the timeline kept receding. WIHCC staff decided they could not wait any longer and needed a better facility. The first planning meeting for the new building with the management team took place Sept. 8, 2011.
Armao said in years past, WIHCC focused on primary care. Family physicians had always been the mainstay of patient care, but in the last 10 years the center added quite a few specialists. The center has a cardiologist on staff, two surgeons and a couple of other specialists. WIHCC also brings in outside specialists when they can.
"Having a cardiologist on staff is an absolute rarity in Indian Health Service," Armao said. "Every new service requires needs, new exam rooms, frequently new technology."
The amount of patients using WIHCC for urgent care has also increased. Patients come from long distances surrounding Winslow and sometimes come without an appointment. While some of those patients do have an urgent care need, some are more routine cases.
"We always devote a significant amount of our resources to seeing the walk ins on any given day," Armao said.
He stressed that one of the things both patients and staff gain with the new building is efficiency in processing patients. The center used to have clinics upstairs, downstairs and outside the main building. Now they have been able to bring many of those into one facility.
"We're really able to process patients much better," Armao said. "People can cross cover. You really gain in staff efficiency. You can see that already."
He said one of the great features is the lobby that has lots of room providing much more space and calm to a busy day.
"It is a really friendly space," Armao said. "You can really see that we are processing patients much more efficiently because it never seems to get crowded even though we have tons of people come through. It makes for a more pleasant experience."
The grand opening of the new medical office building is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (MST) Sept. 12.
The event will feature a fun walk, guest speakers, entertainment, a ribbon cutting ceremony, lunch and a tour of the new facility.
More information is available from WIHCC at (928) 289-4646 or at www.wihcc.com.