Primary care center good news for Lexington

This big jump forward took a long time, but the wait will be worth it if plans for a low-cost medical clinic on Lexington's south side live up to their potential.

Almost half of the participants in the Fayette County Health Department's federally sponsored Women, Infants and Children program live in the southern part of the city, so there is ready demand for the primary care center planned on Southland Drive.

The new clinic will augment the primary medical care that has long been available at the health department's headquarters on Newtown Pike.

The deal announced last month by the board of HealthFirst Bluegrass clears the way for an $11.7 million federal grant to be put to good use renovating and equipping the newfound location. The new clinic could be ready to treat patients in a year.

The long and frustrating search for a clinic site had raised concerns that the grant might be lost.

We're optimistic that the right decision has been made and that the impasse between the boards of HealthFirst and the health department over the site selection might actually have served a useful purpose since it led to this decision.

The two organizations are natural allies and now will have a better opportunity to coordinate services such as smoking cessation, chronic disease counseling and nutrition assistance.

This kind of strategic cooperation becomes all the more necessary as state funding cuts force the health department into another round of downsizing.

The high cost of treating disease and disability is a huge drag on the economy. Expanding access to preventive health care is a great step forward for Lexington.