Hall County officials may turn a former library into a clinic and pharmacy for county employees.
The East Hall library branch, which has remained empty since it was closed in July 2011 after budget cuts, has been proposed as a possible location.
“With all our county buildings, this one included, we always want to determine what will be the most viable use for the building in the future,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said. “Of course, that building was closed a couple of years ago and has been vacant since that time. So we’ve been evaluating the use of that county building or the use of any other county building that becomes available.”
Knighton said the location of the clinic would need to be central within the county; the library is on Old Cornelia Highway less than a mile east of Interstate 985. The Hall County Government Center at 2875 Browns Bridge Road could also serve as a location.
Officials are in the process of researching the feasibility of the clinic and potential cost savings. That process is likely to last until the start of the next fiscal year in July.
“Of course, we collect the data and work through that on our own,” Marty Nix, assistant county administrator, said. “We know about how much health care is costing us and we vet that through our (human resources) staff and will come up with numbers at some point. That is the process that we are currently engaged in. That will take quite a while to develop all the numbers and to come up with all the data so we can give (it to) our elected officials.”
The clinic for employees is appealing because it could save tax dollars by essentially taking out the middle man, Nix said.
“(Clinics) are getting more and more numerous as our health care in our country changes,” Nix said. “They’re becoming more and more popular as a cost savings to government. We can turn the savings into more efficient government for the taxpayers.”
The county is looking to several other city and county governments that have had success with the employee clinic model, including Gainesville and Chattanooga, Tenn.
Gainesville offers its insured employees and their dependents access to a clinic as part of a benefits package. Employees are able to be seen by a physician for preventive and minor health concerns and pick up generic prescriptions at no cost.
Angela Sheppard, assistant city manager, said the clinic has had a significant impact on the health, productivity and long-term medical costs of city employees. However, the exact cost savings to taxpayers is unknown.
The county clinic could be used for employee physicals, workers compensation cases, disease management and prevention and health coaching.
“In our information gathering process we’ve seen where this has been successful in other places, and we want to see if this is something that can work for our employees and ultimately be something that can yield benefits,” Knighton said.
Hall County Library System director Adrian Mixson expressed interest in reopening the building to serve library customers on a limited scale but said he was told to “not do anything at the time.”
“I feel like we could reopen it,” Mixson said. “I’m sure it won’t be like a real library but I could turn part of the building into a (computer) lab, which was the most popular part of the library when we had a program over there.”