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City sees more than $600,000 in savings in first year of health clinic

More than 60 percent of Vicksburg city employees and more than 43 percent of their spouses have used the city’s in-house clinic since it opened in Nov. 2016, according to a report by Vigilant Health, the health care organization operating the clinic.

Open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the clinic was established by the city as a way to reduce health insurance costs by providing a place employees and their families can go without having to pay a copay, or as an alternative to going to the hospital emergency room for minor medical problems like colds or aches and pains.

Known as “The Clinic,” the program opened Nov. 1, 2016, managed by the then-Southern Health Network. Southern Health recently changed its name to Vigilant.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen in July 2016, approved the health care agreement with Vigilant, which at the time was expected to save the city $37,000 a month. According to statistics from Vigilant, the clinic is expected to save the city $610,896 in 2017.

“I think it’s headed in the right direction,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “It’s saving us money and it’s still within our budget. We just need to continue to fine-tune it to make it more accessible after hours and weekends so it meets the needs of the families of the employees. I think when we do that, we’re going to see some big results. I’m very pleased with the outcome so far. I feel real good about it.”

He said more employees are using the clinic, adding firefighters and police officers have been using the clinic more than other employees.

“I think as employees get more acclimated to it and we make it more accessible it’s going to be a win for all of us,” he said.

“We’re pleased, we think it’s doing well for the city,” said Dr. Marshall Bouldin, The Clinic’s medical director. “We do health and wellness assessments, we do health screenings, we have a health coach as well, who instructs them in lifestyles, and that is very well received. We assist patients with chronic conditions. We see everybody on the plan down to age 2. We’re quite proud of what we’re doing.”

He called the initial employee participation “pretty amazing” for a wellness clinic.

“It has taken a while for things to get rolling, but as the people began to know us and accept us, they have started coming in,” said Carmeshia Cain, a family nurse practitioner who is the clinic manager.

Located at 1 Medical Plaza across from Promise Hospital, the clinic has three examination rooms and a lab. Cain and a nurse staff the clinic, with doctors coming in on a rotating basis.

Although the clinic has seen several patients for sinus problems caused by the change of seasons, Cain said, most of the patients come to the clinic for diabetes and high blood pressure.

“They come in and we help them get it under control, and then they come back for follow-up visits so they can keep it under control,” she said. “We have a health coach who works with the patients on keeping their blood pressure down and their diabetes in check. If somebody has high cholesterol, she helps them by showing them how to have a healthy diet and the foods they should eat.”

She added the clinic also has a program to help patients stop smoking.

In the beginning, she said, the clinic had a lot of walk-in traffic, but people are now setting appointments to come to the clinic.

Cain said the clinic has also started making referrals for patients. Bouldin said the referrals are part of the Vigilant’s health management program for patients.

“We try to work within the context of the health community and the patient. We try to engage and manage their care beyond the walls of the clinic,” he said. “We are adding programs and growing all the time, we’re developing new programs for health management.”

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.

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