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Halifax Primary Care expansion approved

A large number of Southside youth currently cannot afford basic dental and health care, but a $2.5 million expansion of the Halifax Primary Care facility in Houghton Industrial Park may be just the right tonic they need for a brighter future. The Halifax Regional Health System Board of Directors voted Monday afternoon to proceed with the project, according to Halifax Regional Health System CEO Chris Lumsden.

Halifax Regional Health System has stated it will provide approximately $865,000, and approximately $454,000 will be provided from federal/state/foundation funding to assist in the total cost of the project, estimated at $2.5 million.

The 10,000-square foot expansion would essentially double the size of the current facility, with 3,500 square feet devoted to a dental clinic and 6,500 square feet devoted to expansion of Halifax Primary Care.

The expansion would allow for five additional physicians, two dentists, a hygienist and accompanying support staff, Lumsden explained.

The $2.5 million price tag will cover construction costs as well as equipping and furnishing costs, in addition to site preparation, Lumsden explained.

A final remaining hurdle for the go-ahead by his board was $400,000 in funding for the dental clinic portion of the project approved recently by the tobacco commission.

In June, the Town of South Boston was awarded $700,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for the expansion, which will allow the primary care center an opportunity to grow in the future with additional physicians and providers.

“We’ve received about $35,000 in other grant funding as well,” Lumsden continued.

Virginia Health Care Foundation is helping with non-capital funding to help start-up costs for running the facility over the first three years, according to Lumsden.

The project is on the fast track with ground breaking scheduled for May or June, Lumsden explained.

“We’re going to move forward as quickly as we can.  We have two physicians who signed letters of intent to start January of 2013.  We are really out of space at Halifax Primary Care, and this will allow us to expand that facility.

“The general plan right now is finishing it as quickly as possible and get a certificate of occupancy sometime early in January of 2013.”

The Virginia Department of Health has designated Halifax County as a geographical dental health professional shortage area, and Lumsden said the need for a dental clinic in this area is “unbelievable.”

In 2011, only two dentists participated in Medicaid and Smiles for Children, and of those one is not accepting new patients and the other has a waiting list.

Lumsden estimated 80 percent of patients at the dental clinic would be children who generally don’t have access to or can’t afford dental services.

“Generally, a large portion of young population do not have dental insurance and don’t receive dental care due to the expense,” said Lumsden.

“This will help address a fairly big need in our community and in our region for that matter.”

About 1,000 patients with some sort of dental complaint visit the Halifax Regional Hospital emergency room each year, emergency room Supervisor Tony Wilkerson told South Boston Town Council last March before council adopted a resolution supporting the application of the Community Development Block Grant.

At that same meeting, Dr. James Priest, vice-chief of staff at Halifax Regional Hospital, told council a tremendous number of children who come through are from out of his area of expertise and need general dental care.

The dental clinic itself would serve as an inducement for potential dentists, Dr. Wayne Adams told council at that same meeting.

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