Clinic OK’d for city workers

Published 10:09 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen went one step closer to a city-sponsored medical clinic Monday, approving a partnership with the Southern Health Network to provide a nurse practitioner, a health and wellness plan, and a nurse navigator who will work with members and their physicians to improve health care.

The program will cost the city $37,000 a month. However, if after the first six months there are no savings in medical costs, the city will not have to pay until savings are shown.

“The payment to this company will only come from the savings we get through reducing health care costs,” South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The clinic will be located at One Medical Plaza adjacent to Merit Health River Region West on North Frontage Road.

Board Attorney Nancy Thomas said the move is aimed at cutting the city’s medical claims totaling almost $4 million a year. The city has a self-funded insurance program for its employees.

“What we’re hoping to do is reduce the amount of money we’re spending on health care claims, get a more healthy employee work force, and also this plan would do our drug testing and workman’s compensation (claims) and provide certain medication at a discount, so it would be affordable for employees to go there,” she said. “There would be no co-pay for employees and their dependents to go.”

She said city employees will not be required to use the clinic.

“It’s clearly a volunteer clinic,” she said. “The benefit is the clinic will work with community physicians. Whoever the physician is for that person, or if they don’t have a physician, get them in touch with a physician to address their medical needs, and by doing that, we can avoid a chronic illness that would result in a hospital stay and cost thousands of dollars.”

Thompson said he was initially skeptical about the clinic’s costs, but after researching the program, “I do believe we will benefit due to lower costs to the city and have a healthier work force. A healthier employee is a more productive employee.

“There are some advantages we can have with a personalized health management for our employees,” he said. “I do believe when you’re looking at spending $4 million in health care costs and we have an opportunity to reduce those costs and at the same time produce a healthier work force, I’m willing to give it a try.”

The board in March authorized Thomas to begin negotiations with a partnership of Southern Health Network, Medical Analysis and Merit Health River Region Medical Center.

The board initially began examining an in-house clinic in 2015 as a way to save on medical costs by having a central location where employees and their families could get help if they were sick, and to do the city’s drug testing programs for employees. Similar programs have been in place on the coast for several years, and the cities using them have reported saving money on medical costs.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John