"These are hard working folks who need access to healthcare and our primary objective is to make sure they have a place to receive care at an affordable cost.”

GraceMed Health Clinic officially opened Monday morning on McPherson’s Main Street.

The plans to bring the clinic to town started in 2014, when Circles of McPherson County and the McPherson Healthcare Foundation identified lack of access to affordable health care as a barrier to escaping poverty. GraceMed Health Clinic, a nonprofit provider that has eight locations in Wichita, was selected because the clinic accepts patients with insurance, as well as patients who will pay on a sliding-fee scale.

“A group got together and started talking about the greatest needs in the McPherson community and it was very obvious that access to healthcare for the uninsured or underinsured was a high priority,” said Dave Sanford, CEO of GraceMed. “There’s a significant number in the area and the state. For any number of reasons, these are hard working folks who need access to healthcare and our primary objective is to make sure they have a place to receive care at an affordable cost.”

The clinic will serve patients at 322 N. Main St. in McPherson as one of the businesses opening in the historic location.

“(Property Developer) Graham Crain found this historical building on Main Street and asked if we’d be interested in being occupants of that building. Thank goodness it’s all done and everything is to our specifications,” Sanford said about the renovations. “We couldn’t have asked for a better solution. It’s also in downtown McPherson and I don’t think people will have a difficult time finding us.”

According to data from the Uniform Data System, 8,170 low-income residents live in the McPherson clinic target area. The closest clinics serving uninsured patients are in Hutchinson, Salina and Newton. By offering services in McPherson, GraceMed anticipates serving 2,400 people a year and about 8,000 total patient visits per year.

GraceMed offers family practice care for patients ranging from newborn to geriatrics, as well as complete dental services.

“Very few dentists are willing to take children on KanCare, our Medicaid program. That’s our forte,” Sanford said. “We hope the word gets around that we accept children on Medicaid who need those twice a year check-ups, so they can have great dental care at an early age.”

Patients in emergency rooms who are uninsured or underinsured can result in uncollected debt for the hospitals, so when patients have access to primary care, this burden is reduced.

“The ER is expensive, sometimes you have to wait, and it’s just episodic care. You don’t have consistent care for whatever chronic disease you may have,” Sanford said. “As we grow our presence in the community, we’ll see if there are other opportunities to divert care from the ER to our clinic. The experience in McPherson as with most hospitals is the most people who come to the ER are not in emergency situations. We want to do some training and let people know there are other options.”

The push stems from overall physician demand — most McPherson physicians have a full patient roster.

“In our country, many providers either limit or do not accept Medicaid and Medicare patients because reimbursement is so low. These folks have a hard time finding a place they can go for healthcare,” Sanford said. “There are far more people to be served than there are private physicians and dentists, so people end up traveling for care. Just having another provider focusing on the uninsured, as well as the insured, is a great expansion for McPherson’s healthcare community.”