Originally published in the 12/1/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.
LOCKWOOD — The Montana Healthcare Foundation has awarded Lockwood School District and St. Vincent Healthcare a $75,000 grant to develop a primary care clinic for the community of Lockwood. The clinic, when complete, will be located on the campus of Lockwood Schools and will provide care to students and Lockwood residents. The project is set to be complete and open in February 2018.
To Don Christman, director of Special Programs at Lockwood School District, opening the clinic is the fruition of years of hard work by numerous people, including the late Don Reed, a champion of local health care.
“I’m just really, really happy that after six years, it’s on the way,” Christman said. “The district has worked hard to develop a partnership with healthcare professionals to bring primary care to our campus and community. We are pleased to now see our vision realized through our partnership with St. Vincent Healthcare.”
The previously known Ronald McDonald Care Mobile will serve as the new stationary primary care clinic on the school campus. A full renovation of the vehicle will provide all of the necessary equipment and technology needed to treat patients at the new clinic.
“The goal of the clinic is to treat a broad spectrum of primary care needs along with immunizations for students,” said Tim Pellandini, director of operations for St. Vincent Physicians.
The grant will cover the costs to develop and open the initial clinic.
The remodeled mobile care unit will include two exam rooms and a reception area. It will be hard-wired to St. Vincent Healthcare Internet service independent from the school district’s technology to ensure patient privacy and immediate access to hospital medical records, Christman said.
Christman said Lockwood has been without a local clinic since 1998, and community leaders have pursued several different avenues over the years to restore primary medical care for Lockwood residents.
“We’re just ecstatic that it’s finally coming through,” Christman said. “It’s the real deal.”
He said operating a primary care clinic in Lockwood will allow patients to stay closer to home, rather than go to Billings for every appointment.
“When you have 1,200 kids and an outbreak of pink eye,” he said, a number of those students might miss an entire day of school to see a doctor in Billings.
With health care on campus, they might miss only an hour or two, which is better for students, parents and teachers, he said.
The clinic will offer a full range of medical services, although patients with certain conditions beyond the scope of the clinic will likely be referred to specialists, Christman said.
The school’s nurse and the clinic staff will work cooperatively, but the nurse will not be assigned to the clinic or vice versa, Christman noted. He sees potential benefits in scheduling vaccinations or other student needs with a physician on campus.
The clinic’s clientele will not be limited to Lockwood students or residents, Christman believes, unless the patient load becomes too large.