District employees get own clinic

Posted Monday, Oct. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Mansfield school district employees and their families may soon have their own clinic for treatment of minor injuries and illnesses, with low costs and later hours.

The Methodist Family Health Center Mansfield, a joint venture of the school district and Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, is projected to open in early February projected to open in early February in The Shoppes di Lucca retail center at 1601 Debbie Lane.

The clinic is intended for uninsured employees as well as the insured who face high deductibles. And its business hours of noon to 7:30 p.m. weekdays, will make it easier for employees to get treatment for themselves and their children without having to miss work, officials said.

A $10 co-pay will cover all medical expenses for the visit, and the district will pay the hospital a first-year fee capped at $420,000.

“We didn’t look at it as a bargain. We looked at this as a benefit for the people we employ at MISD,” said School Board President Beth Light, adding that the clinic’s use and costs will continue to be scrutinized.

“We kind of have a template for how we think this is going to work, but we’re going to have to evaluate it every month,” she said. “Nobody knows what healthcare is going to do in the country in the next two years.”

The school board last week directed Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas to negotiate the contract with the hospital. The contract was in final review late Monday, said Assistant Superintendent Terry Morawski.

The healthcare provider at the employee clinic will be either a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant, working under the supervision Dr. Darin Charles. Charles, a Mansfield resident, will serve as the district’s employee clinic’s medical director while he operates his own practice and clinic in an adjoining space at The Shoppes.

The employee clinic will treat common illnesses such as colds, flu, strep throat and minor wounds like sprains. It will provide basic lab testing and write prescriptions. The clinic will not fill prescriptions, treat chronic illness or major injuries or give flu shots.

Methodist Mansfield President John Phillips said the clinic not only will benefit district employees but also provide a means “to continue to stabilize healthcare costs in our industry by keeping patients well, catching their illness before they get too sick and wind up in a higher-cost setting, such as an emergency department or being admitted to the hospital.”

District spokesman Richie Escovedo said there are 2,462 district employees – 44 percent of the total – who do not have insurance coverage through the district. He said that includes employees who have no insurance at all, but that the district does not keep a specific number.

The district clinic will be Methodist Mansfield’s eighth clinic in its service area. Two other clinics are in Mansfield, based in the medical office building on the hospital campus at 2700 E. Broad St., and there are five in Grand Prairie, South Arlington and Midlothian.

Phillips said the employee clinic “is set up to work hand in hand” with each patient’s own primary care physician and, if necessary, will refer those patients to their doctors for follow-ups.

The district and hospital started working on the plan about a year ago, before Superintendent Bob Morrison left the district and Jim Vaszauskas replaced him.

“It kind of had to go by the wayside for a while because of everything we were dealing with,” Light said. Work on it resumed earlier this year.

Melanie Stillings, who teaches leadership at Ben Barber Career Tech Academy, said she welcomed the news of the employee clinic. Even though she has insurance coverage through her husband’s employer, she expects to benefit from the convenience and lower costs of taking her two school-age children to the clinic. And she’s even happier for her colleagues that don’t have insurance.

“It’s proactive,” Stillings said of the clinic. “I think that’s the best way to sum it up. The district is being very smart about taking care of its employees.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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