RAVENNA — A Grand Island medical clinic may take the place of the clinic that will close in Ravenna.

Heartland Health Center of Grand Island administrators visited with Ravenna businesses and community members Wednesday to gauge the people’s interest in a new medical provider.

The current and only clinic in town, Ravenna Medical Clinic, is scheduled to close Dec. 1.

Ravenna Medical Clinic owner Ryan Lieske told the Hub in an interview last month that his clinic had lost $200,000 last year because medical reimbursements had been cut and many of his patients are recipients of Medicaid. Though his clinic lost money, Lieske said at a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Ravenna that he believes the Heartland Health Center could be viable.

“I’ve had several conversations (with Heartland Health Center Chief Executive Officer Tami Smith), and I think their reimbursement rate is on a better scale. I went through some numbers with her,” Lieske said. “If my vote counted, this certainly would be my vote. I think they have the best long-term viability here.”

Smith said that because her clinic is federally qualified, they are reimbursed at a higher rate for Medicare and Medicaid. It also gives the clinic room for expansion, she said.

Lieske told the Hub after meeting with Smith that several other providers approached the city about coming to town.

“But I guarantee they’ll end up in the same boat that I am in, not going to be able to do it,” he said.

Before moving forward with setting up a clinic in Ravenna, Smith said she needs to inform the clinic’s board of directors and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration that the community and business partners support Heartland Health Center.

Specifically she visited the pharmacy, nursing and assisted living facilities in Ravenna. So far, Smith said, these businesses support the idea.

Smith will present a budget for the potential clinic at the board’s November meeting. If the board approves her budget, she will submit what she called a “change in scope” to HRSA.

If approved, Smith said a clinic in Ravenna could open as early as February.

Between Dec. 1 and Feb. 1 while Ravenna is without a clinic, Smith told a room of about 60 Ravenna residents that Lieske’s patients could establish care with Heartland’s Grand Island clinic.

“So if they wanted to establish care with one of our care providers, they would be in our system. So then when we opened here, then that care could just transfer to the Ravenna (clinic),” she said.

Smith said her goal is for the Ravenna clinic hours would be 8 a.m. to 5 or 5:30 p.m. five days a week.

Stephanie Burge, a nurse practitioner and professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing in Kearney, would work a couple of days at the clinic. Heartland would hire another nurse practitioner to staff the rest of the week.

Burge, who has studied rural health care, said once she learned about the Ravenna Medical Clinic’s upcoming closure, she asked Heartland Medical Clinic if it would set up a practice in Ravenna.

“That’s the only way it’s sustainable is to bring the business end of it. UNMC looked into it. We can’t go into the business of doing this, but we can partner,” Burge said.

Burge’s work at the clinic would be funded by a rural health care grant. It also would be an opportunity for faculty to work as nurses in a rural setting.

“So what a great place to work that registered nurse, to give them an idea of what it’s like to live in a small community, who the people are, what the health care needs are,” she said.

Smith said the Heartland Medical Clinic sees everyone no matter their ability to pay. They have set up a sliding scale based on family income.

Smith is interested in expanding their services to Ravenna because she wants to make a difference.

“When I started to pull the numbers, and look at the population and the level of Medicaid that aren’t being seen, the level of uninsured up in this area, we could bring some quality health care to help those people,” Smith said.

@erikadpritchard

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