City picks site for new employee health center

Lexington officials estimate that 3,000 city employees and retirees, half of the number eligible, will use a new health center in its first year.

The location of the employee health center, 100 Trade Street, was announced at a news conference Friday. A January opening is planned.

Dr. David French, the newly hired medical director, said the center would provide primary care and preventive health services to employees, retirees and their dependents covered by city insurance. No employees will be required to change their primary care doctors, said French, who previously was 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 how a healthier lifestyle might help them avoid medication or reduce the amount needed.

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.

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 building on Trade Street, at Leestown Road, previously was used as a health care office so is basically ready, he said. Although the space and staff represent an investment of city money, Gray said he expected to reduce health costs 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 revenue. 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 news conference lectern.

The new Dr. Samuel Brown Center for Lexington City Employees and Retirees is named after a pioneering Lexington doctor. Brown, who died in 1830, founded the Lexington Medical Society and was instrumental in developing a smallpox vaccine.

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