Lexington officials estimate that 3,000 city employees and retirees, or half of those eligible, will use a new health center in its first year.
The location of the new employee health center, 100 Trade Street, was announced at a press conference Friday. A January opening is planned.
Dr. David French, the newly hired medical director, said the center will provide primary care and preventative health services to employees, retirees and their dependents covered by city insurance. No employee will be required to change his or her primary care doctor, said French, who was previously director of primary care for Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky in Georgetown.
But, French said, the clinic will focus on preventing acute health problems and offering more individual attention. For example, he said, patients with high blood pressure or diabetes could use the center to learn about how a healthier lifestyle might help them avoid medication or reduce the amount needed.
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There will be no exercise equipment at the center when it opens but the seven employees being hired to work at the center could help employees find exercise and other resources in the community that could help them create a healthier lifestyle.
Both primary care services and other office visits will be free.
French said that when he was in private practice he had to schedule patients every 10 minutes, but the center will allow patients to have "30, 45 or 60 minutes" if that's what they need.
Mayor Jim Gray said he expects to be among the patients on opening day. The Trade Street, at Leestown Road, building had previously been used as a health care office so is basically ready for use, he said. Although the space and staff represent an investment of city money, Gray said he expects to reduce health cost in the long run.
The employee health center was announced in October along with significant increases in employee health insurance premiums. Gray said the overhaul of the city's health plan was triggered by mounting deficits and declining city revenues. This year, the city will spend about $33 million on employees, their dependents and retirees, he said. Employee groups decried the health insurance changes but several joined Gray at the press conference lectern.
Dubbed the Dr. Samuel Brown Center for Lexington City Employees and Retirees, the center is named after a pioneering Lexington doctor. Brown, who died in 1830, founded the Lexington Medical Society and was also instrumental in developing a smallpox vaccine.