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By Harold Ambler
By Harold Ambler
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – A groundbreaking ceremony attended by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and others was held last week in South Kingstown, as Thundermist Health Center made a preliminary start on the ambitious construction project to create its new Wakefield facility in 2014.
The new facility, with 22 treatment rooms versus the 14 at the same location, is intended to treat 33 percent more patients yearly. And the building’s design and conception represents the cutting-edge changes in health care delivery in the Ocean State and around the nation. In particular, the services at Thundermist’s new facility will emphasize value, including and especially the value provided by preventive medicine.
Chuck Jones, Thundermist’s CEO, said that the changes in health care delivery have been taking place at the company’s other locations for some time.
“The current building was built as a furniture store 100 years ago,” Jones said, “and presented a number of challenges to us. As we’ve done in our other communities, we’ve designed a new facility with a much different model of care in mind.”
In order to provide care that is more integrative, and less compartmentalized, as Jones and Thundermist intend, it was necessary to think seriously about teamwork and community.
“In our current building in Wakefield, our care teams are spread out,” Jones said. “Necessary conversations about care take place in hallways under less-than-ideal circumstances. In the new facility, we are co-locating the core team – the provider, the nurse, the medical assistant, the nurse care manager – in a non-public space, and the team members are able to have sensitive discussions without exposing patients to them. It provides for a quieter, more patient-focused visit, one that doesn’t expose them to the back-office exchange that they shouldn’t have to hear, or even be aware of.
“This isn’t just a space where providers work while they’re on shift. They don’t have an office outside of this, they’re sitting side by side with their medical assistants and everyone else on staff. The design really facilitates teamwork, high-performance teamwork.”
The new facility, being built alongside the former one, at 1 River Street, will have a prominent community room, which Jones explained is central to the mission of Thundermist.
“The community space supports group visits with patients, and also welcomes the community,” Jones said. “We do diabetes, smoking cessation, and depression group visits, and we don’t have a very good space to do that in the current facility. The impact of those interventions can be very powerful for the patients that attend, because of the social aspect. It’s also a way for us to commit more time on the part of our providers, subject matter experts, and clinicians, to give our patients more face time with them.”
Jones said Thundermist’s experience in at its West Warwick location is serving as an important guide as the company moves forward.
“The other important aspect of that community room is what we see happening in West Warwick where Thundermist is really becoming a convener of very important health care and community discussions. For instance, Neighborhood Helath Plan of Rhode Island does a mitten and hat giveaway. They also support baby showers for moms who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford or have a support system to provide them with some of the necessities for their new family. That kind of space is really crucial for our ability to dig deeper into impacting the socio-economic determinants of health.”
Jones said that South County Hospital shares Thundermist’s vision, and that the two cooperate in such a way as to benefit both, as well as the health of the people of South Kingstown, and nearby towns.
“Lou Giancola, who’s president of South County Hospital, is a great partner to us,” Jones said. “Thundermist’s expanded capacity in primary care is building the medical infrastructure that’s required for improved overall health of the community. One small example of our partnership is hospitals are rewarded now for reducing readmission rates. Without a strong primary care presence in the community, that’s a very challenging task.”
The plan is for the new building, which has two larger floors versus the three at the current River Street location, to be completed by December 2014. After everything is moved from the old building into the new, the former location will be razed to make space for parking.