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Health department shuffle to allow HIV clinic expansion

POSTED: January 16, 2014 11:48 p.m.

Hall County’s Department of Health plans on renovating and relocating several clinics in a series of moves that officials said would improve quality of services.

District 2 Health Director David N. Westfall said one of the biggest benefits will be more room for the department’s Ryan White Clinic, which treats and manages patients with HIV.

“The hope is that once the dental clinic moves, there will be enough money in the project to do some fairly minor renovations on the modular building in order for the Ryan White Clinic to move into the modular building from the current health department building, where it doesn’t have much space,” Westfall said. “That is one of the kind of domino effects of being able to move the dental clinic over to the Prior Street campus.”

The dental clinic is in a modular building behind the health department on Athens Street. The department’s Children With Special Needs program, which coordinates resources for specialized health care for high-risk infants and children, will move to Prior Street, from its Thompson Bridge Road office.

The renovations are being funded by special purpose local option sales tax VI, and a building swap with the city of Gainesville, finalized in March 2013, opened the space on Prior Street.

Dave Palmer, Hall County Health Department public information officer, said the rearrangement is a “good move” for the HIV clinic.

“It’s going to allow them to have more space, and along with that, it increases their ability to provide the privacy they want,” he said. “It’s going to be a good move for the clinic.”

Marty Nix, assistant county administrator, said the Prior Street renovation is poised to begin soon, with the county recently acquiring permits from the city of Gainesville.

“It’s in the pipeline. It’s going to get going really fast here,” he said.

The county will be using its own construction crews, Nix said.

“We want to have it completed by the spring, barring we don’t have any emergencies in the county or that we have to take the construction crews off the project,” Nix said. “But we hope to have all the renovations completed by this coming spring. That’s our goal.”

Nix said the renovations, including plumbing work, flooring and outfitting the dental office, won’t constitute a “major” construction effort.

“It’s not going to be a lot of moving walls,” he said. “It’s basically painting, using existing offices, because that’s what the building was used for years ago.”

The Prior Street building was Hall’s health department before it housed the county-city community service center or other county departments. Those departments moved to the Hall County Government Center on Browns Bridge Road, which was formerly a Liberty Mutual building.

“When we moved out to the Liberty Mutual building, in the Prior Street building we had several county offices,” Nix said. “We had planning and zoning there; we had business license; there was environment health; there was building inspections. It was more of the developmental services portion of Hall County.”

The consolidation of county offices to the government center, which opened in 2012, is what allowed the health department to relocate to its old home, albeit partially: The Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center will still occupy half of the building.

“That paved the way to move the health department out of rented space on Thompson Bridge Road to that building there, but to do so, we had to do some renovations,” he said, noting the shuffle will result in fewer bills for the health department. “They’re taking some portion of Athens Street — the dental lab — and the offices on Thompson Bridge Road and moving them into the Prior Street building, and that way there would be no rent paid. It would be our own building.”

The Thompson Bridge Road building is owned by the Norton Agency, a Gainesville commercial and residential real estate company.

Westfall said the Ryan White Clinic can especially use the space since it was recently able to hire additional nursing personnel through a federal grant.

“They really need room there,” Westfall said. “All of the people are trying to work out of two small rooms, and so by giving them more room, they’ll have more space for them to work to take care of the patients that are currently being managed.”

“It would allow them to offer additional services if needed,” he added.

The clinic serves the 13 counties in District 2. Ryan White is the namesake of the federal program that funds the HIV services, named in honor of an Indiana teen who died from AIDS complications in 1990.


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