Nonprofit clinic expands to Christiansted


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ST. CROIX - Frederiksted Health Care will soon be expanding into Christiansted.

The nonprofit, which offers affordable primary health care services to those who are medically underserved, plans to see its first patients at a new La Grande Princesse location in early March.

"It is a satellite site to our facility in Frederiksted," said Frederiksted Health Care Chief Executive Officer Masserae Sprauve Webster. "Basically, the services we provide here, we will be providing there."

The new location is at 6C La Grande Princesse, on North Side Road. A sign announcing that the new clinic is "Coming Soon" has been at the location for some time.

However, Frederiksted Health Care just received a certificate of need for the satellite location from the V.I. Health Department, Sprauve Webster said. The certificate was a necessary step before the facility could open.

Frederiksted Health Care has a surprising number of patients from the Christiansted area, according to Sprauve Webster. The new location will serve those patients closer to where they live.

"Right now, 55 percent of our patients come from Christiansted," she said. "Many have expressed concern about having to travel to Frederiksted."

Officials plan to offer the same services at both locales, including adult/internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, HIV services, and a variety of others, she said.

The nonprofit Frederiksted Health Center receives local and federal funding, in addition to revenues from operations. It is not, however, under the auspices of the Health Department. Instead, it operates as a nonprofit, with a board overseeing it.

Although Frederiksted Health Care facilities see patients who have insurance, they also offer services on a sliding scale fee basis, according to family size and ability to pay, to provide a low-cost alternative for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Sprauve Webster said that the number of clients at Frederiksted Health Center has grown steadily over the years, particularly as the economy worsened and more residents lost their health insurance.

She anticipates that the demand for Frederiksted Health Care services will continue to grow as the territory starts to expand its Medicaid program.

One of Frederiksted Health Center's federal grants is specifically for rural areas that are medically underserved, Sprauve Webster said.

Originally, only Frederiksted - and not Christiansted - fell into that category, she said. However, more recently, the entire island has been designated medically underserved, she said.

The nonprofit purchased the building in La Grande Princesse for the clinic for $750,000, Sprauve Webster said, noting that officials expect that the renovations and getting the building ready to house the clinic will run approximately $50,000 to $70,000 more.

"We have done the analysis on it and we really feel that the need is great enough. We are not asking for additional funding. We are not asking for additional funding from the local or federal government," she said, adding that as a nonprofit, the health center reinvests its revenues into expanding services.

In recent years, Frederiksted Health Center has seen growth in the number of patients in almost all demographic categories, including those with insurance, she said. The only population where there hasn't been growth, where the number of patients has stayed relatively constant, has been elderly patients with Medicare, she said.

"We're here for everyone, whether you have insurance or not," she said.

At this point, workers are putting the final touches on renovations at the new satellite office in La Grande Princesse, Sprauve Webster said. The clinic will initially only occupy the front part of the building, but there is room to expand as the need grows, she said.

Tentatively, officials anticipate having some sort of dedication ceremony and open house on Feb. 28, although details are still being worked out.

Officials plan to start seeing patients at the satellite location on March 3, and appointments for the new location are being accepted now.

To make an appointment, call 772-0260.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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