UMMC Community Care Clinic improves health care access in Belzoni area
Published on Tuesday, August 29, 2017
By: Ruth Cummins
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is bringing more care to the underserved Mississippi Delta with the opening of an after-hours acute care clinic in Belzoni.
“This is a prime example of what happens when a community and people work together,” said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., during a ribbon cutting today for the UMMC Community Care Clinic. “You’re now getting a little relief after working hours. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
The clinic is located in the Humphreys County Sherrill Building, 16463 Highway 49 North. It will begin seeing patients later this fall and includes a classroom for community education, a fitness area and a walking trail. Nurse practitioners and nurses will give care from 3-11 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The Medical Center is partnering with the Humphreys County Board of Supervisors in creating the clinic. The building houses other tenants, including the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
More than 200 people packed the clinic’s classroom and lined the walls as Medical Center and local leaders emphasized the need for health care at home.
“Humphreys County is a rural and pretty poor place,” said Dickie Stevens, Board of Supervisors president. “Health care is not accessible really close by. Our local doctors do a great job during business hours, but after hours and on weekends, there’s a terrible void since the closing of our hospital.”
The walk-in urgent care clinic won’t offer primary care, because there are two primary care clinics in 2,000-resident Belzoni that usually close weekdays at 5. Instead, the clinic will offer services for non-life threatening acute illness and injury that don’t require an emergency room visit. It targets the 9,000 residents of Humphreys County and the surrounding area.
“It’s so critical,” said Delta native Will Simpson, policy advisor and counsel for Gov. Phil Bryant. “People, and particularly children, don’t get sick on a schedule. This clinic will allow people to get to the doctor when they need to go to the doctor and when their schedule fits it.”
Patients will be treated for routine illnesses that can include acute or short-term pain, headaches, cough, minor injuries, fever and rashes. “The goal is to stabilize the patient and refer them to their primary care provider, or stabilize and recommend the next higher level of care,” said Dr. Tonya Moore, community health services administrator at the UMMC Center for Telehealth, who spearheaded the project for the Medical Center.
Belzoni resident Wilma Thomas, 84, is thrilled and relieved that the clinic has come to town. “After hours care? My goodness!” she said. “I had a fit when they closed the hospital. We needed this badly.”
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, especially thanked Thompson for his pivotal role in bringing the clinic to reality.
“He’s the one who called us and said, ‘We need some help in Belzoni,’’’ Woodward said. “It’s important that the Medical Center engages with a community like this and supports the health care infrastructure.”
A key component will be the use of telehealth to connect patients to specialty care at UMMC. Telehealth allows doctors and other health practitioners to treat patients remotely using online streaming video technology and other tools for two-way live communication. Specialists such as Dr. Jasmine Hollinger of the Department of Dermatology will personally staff the clinic one day a month.
Plans for the classroom space call for it to be used as a distance-learning education site focusing on medical education and training for health care professionals and pre-professional students in the Delta area, Moore said. Patients also will be educated on chronic health conditions and how to manage them in order to improve their health outcomes and quality of life. Education topics include nutrition, weight management and medication management.
“People worked across the spectrum so that we at the Medical Center can be part of the solution, and when possible, keep citizens at home for their health care,” Woodward said.
Said Thompson: “This is the down payment toward bigger and better things for Humphreys County.”