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Health Director Shares Report on New Health Center Updates

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

By Joe Morey

News Editor

LCO Health Center Director Gary Girard shared with the LCO News some updates on the construction project of the new LCO Community Health Center underway at its location on Hwy K down the street from the Sevenwinds Casino.

Girard said the basement foundation is now poured and in the next 30 days, above-ground work will begin. He hopes that by Thanksgiving, they will have it closed in.

The current timeline has the project completed by March of 2025, but if we have mild fall weather and not an early freeze, it could be sooner.

In regards to the services that will be offered in the new much larger clinic, Girard said all services offered now will continue plus they will be able to reduce the backlog for patient care.

“We’ll have a third more capacity for patients,” Girard added. “Currently, we have 1.4 exam rooms per provider, but that will increase to three rooms so that we can have a patient being seen, another being prepped while the other room is being wiped down and cleaned. This will double our patient care, and it will be the same for our dental care too.”

Girard said the patient care will double on day one of the new clinic. Right now, the waiting time for patient care is one to two months.

Once they reduce the backlog and double patient care, new services will begin, according to Girard. He said they will double their reimbursement revenue in the first year and they’ll be opening some services up to the general public. With third party billing, he noted they would be able to hire additional providers.

“We’re going to add 12 to 17 more employees and that will include assistants for each provider, and registration person at each department,” Girard stated.

He said each department will also have their own entrances and this will minimize contact between patients and the public, which will help reduce the spread of viruses like Covid 19 or the flu.

Girard said a couple of future goals include adding an urgent care center and a dialysis center. He said we currently have an urgent care center but we want to have one that serves the general public. He said emergency services could come to our clinic from the Round Lake area or the Chippewa Flowage and cut their travel time to Hayward by 15 minutes.

“We want to capture all that traffic on Hwy B,” Girard said. “If there is an urgent medical situation like broken bones, etc, we’d be closer.”

Girard noted it has been a 4-year struggle to finally get where they are now. He acknowledged Glenn Hall, project manager, for doing an excellent job keeping the project moving forward.

Girard said a formula the Indian Health Service (IHS) uses on a 105 lease will almost cover the new clinic operations with $800,000 per year, and that’s based on 60,000 square feet of medical space providing patient care.

Girard said with the planned revenues, they should be able to pay off the clinic in seven years.

“Bay Bank and Oneida Bank will finance whatever we need to get across the finish line,” Girard explained. “They also said they’d give us a construction loan if the new market tax credits don’t come in on time. Things are going well with them.”

Girard said the Tribe has the money they were dedicating to the project allocated in other areas because they may not need it.

Girard said it would be approximately $15.5 to $17.5 million borrowed and the rest of the $42.5 million will be covered by the new market tax credits and funds the clinic currently has. He said the total cost could come down some as well, because steel and lumber costs were higher when the bids were made as we were in the depth of the pandemic at that time.

“We expect it to come down to around $40 million,” Girard added. “Woodstone is our project manager and they are very good at keeping an eye on the costs and keeping it down.”

Girard said the Bizhiki Wellness Center will also be moved over to the new clinic and that the LCO Conservation Department may move to the current Bizhiki facility, but that’s not finalized yet.

He also said he made a recommendation to the Tribal Governing Board that he would like to see the current, soon to be old clinic made into a detox and sober living center or rehab center, something much needed at LCO. He said 80% of people coming back from treatment are reoffending because there is no where for them to go.

“They return to the same environment. They need a place to live over an extended period of time.”

Girard said the clinic is spending over $500,000 per year on treatment and with that high of a return rate, the old clinic is set up to make this happen.


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