Grant provides for new health clinic

By Michael McVey

Hillary Clinton’s health care hoopla has hit home.

Mary Uscian, Rural Community Nursing Center director, and Sara Barger, NIU Nursing School chair, said the nursing division of the U.S. Public Health Service has given the School of Nursing a five-year, $775,000 grant to open a primary health clinic at Kishwaukee College. The facility will serve the entire community including NIU and Kishwaukee College students.

The plans to open the clinic started when Barger undertook a study of the public health problems and available services in the DeKalb County area, Uscian said.

Barger discovered a large number of uninsured residents, Uscian said, and wanted to start the clinic to make affordable primary care available to these residents.

Since the center would be staffed by nurse practitioners, Barger said, NIU nursing students will have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a rural setting.

“Until now we have had to send students to big-city hospitals for internships. People tend to avoid rural settings, but when students intern in a rural setting they are more likely to stay there,” Barger said.

Uscian described the services the clinic would provide as “front-line health care” and said she expected the center to open April 1, 1994. Barger said there is a shortage of health care in rural areas.

Uscian said the clinic would provide physical exams for treatment of illness, insurance and school physicals, and well child exams. The clinic also would have screening for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure, Uscian said.

Uscian said the center would include a family planning clinic which would provide birth control devices and medications, medical exams and pap smears. She said University Health Service provides most of the same services but this center would be available to non-students.

The grant will be used to renovate the building where the clinic is to be located, to buy equipment and supplies and hire staff, Uscian said. The grant also would subsidize the primary care to keep costs to patients substantially lower than what a hospital would charge, she added.

Once the center is open it will be a major source of nursing internships. “The NIU master’s and bachelor’s and Kishwaukee College’s associate nursing students will have experiences in the center. Many universities don’t offer internships in primary care in a rural setting,” Barger said.

While providing a learning opportunity for NIU students, Barger said the center is not intended to require university funding. “We hope to be self-sufficient in five years without charging patients as much as a hospital,” she said.

Uscian said she agreed. “We are currently under a business plan to ensure that we are self-sufficient when the five years is up.”

Neither Uscian nor Barger would rule out the possibility of seeking other sources of public funding to keep medical care costs down. They said the point of having this facility is to make primary care available to local residents at an affordable price.

Major surgery still would be referred to a major hospital, Barger said. “We are not trying to compete with or replace UHS. We are making the same services available to the rest of the community,” she added.