Expanded health clinic opens Thursday on Elgin’s east side
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News November 7, 2012 9:04PM
Representative Keith Farnham (from left) along with Byron Saum, city manager ... and VNA President and CEO Linnea Windel converse following a ribbon cutting ceremony near stained glass artwork hanging in the new VNA Health Care clinic in Elgin. November 7, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 7:32PM
ELGIN — Barely six months after a ceremonial groundbreaking in a mostly-barren field, doctors will see their first patients Thursday at the new VNA Health Care Clinic.
Work started on the new, 20,000-square-foot, 24-exam room clinic at 801 Villa St. shortly before the May 23 groundbreaking. Now, patients on Medicare or Medicaid, those without health care coverage, or those with insurance, too, can access a health care provider closer to where they live, officials said during the clinic’s unveiling Wednesday.
In its first year, the new VNA clinic is expected to serve 6,000 area residents, said Cheryl O’Donoghue, vice president of employee services. Those numbers are in addition to those who receive family, ob/gyn and pediatric services at their first Elgin location, at 620 Wing St., she added.
Elgin officials also hope the new facility will draw more investment and development to Elgin’s far southeast side.
“VNA will offer medical services to an underserved part of our community,” said Mayor David Kaptain. “This will be an economic development tool for this stretch of Villa Street.”
The new clinic is across the street from Elgin Fire Station 5 — and the notoriously water-logged and pothole-prolific Willard Street — which the city tore out and repaved this summer, knowing the clinic would soon open its doors.
“Pay attention to this neighborhood and this side of town” for future additional development, Kaptain said.
Elgin staff has been in talks with owners of the long-shuttered Pepper Mill restaurant about possible changes at that site, across the corner from the clinic, added City Manager Sean Stegall.
The entire stretch is prime for additional gas stations and convenience stores, as well as food options, Stegall said.
VNA president and CEO Linnea Windel praised the city for how well it worked with the health care provider in getting the building ready in time — include a Sunday building inspection to get its temporary occupancy permit, she said.
Stegall met with Windel every other week during construction to ensure everything went smoothly. “She would thank me for what city staff did, and I didn’t even know about it,” Stegall said. “It is due to the talent of the staff at VNA” that everything worked so smoothly, he said.
Patients using the clinic will enter through a spacious, cathedral-ceiling lobby and registration area before being brought back to exam rooms, O’Donoghue said. A 50/50 mix of appointments and walk-in patients is expected in the clinic. From start to finish, excluding lab work, patients should be in and out in an hour, she said.
“There are three things that our patients said they want to feel here: respected, cared for and well-informed,” O’Donoghue said. “On a day-to-day basis, they will receive a higher degree of health care.”
In just the past year, VNA and its clinics throughout the area have seen a 30 percent increase in usage. Windel expects that number to continue increasing as the federal Affordable Care Act becomes fully implemented.
“With ACA, there will be more of a demand” as more residents become eligible for Medicaid, she said. As more people obtain insurance because of ACA, there also will be more people seeking medical attention, she said.
VNA has planned for that eventuality as well. Part of the reason for the quick construction is that an additional 20,000 square feet of the building’s north wing is completely empty — just a shell with walls, ceilings, a sprinkler system and gravel floors. When needed, that area can be built out to include another 18 exam rooms, O’Donoghue said.