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Expanded space offers more care




Staff at First Care Clinic this week is celebrating the opening of an expanded and renovated dental unit.

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Staff at First Care Clinic this week is celebrating the opening of an expanded and renovated dental unit.

Since the clinic added dental services in the summer of 2009, providers have been overwhelmed by the amount of local need, said Bryan Brady, chief executive officer of the clinic, located at 105 W. 13th.

"We really think it's going to have a big impact, because dental is one of the biggest needs we continue to see," Brady said of the expansion.

Few dental clinics in northwest Kansas accept Medicaid patients, who now make up the majority of the dental clinic's census, Brady said.

"We're not trying to compete with the business of any other dentists," he said. "We're trying to fill a need."

The expansion increased the number of patient chairs from three to eight, which allow the clinic's two dentists -- Brandt and Charis Brooks -- to see more patients in a more timely fashion.

The husband and wife team began work in Hays approximately 17 months ago. The clinic previously had one provider but saw a need to recruit a second dentist to help meet demand, Brady said.

The existing clinic, however, was not large enough to accommodate two dentists, Brandt Brooks said.

"Before, with three chairs -- one for me, one for Dr. Charis and one for the hygienist -- we were very limited in the amount of patients we could see just because of the sheer size of our clinic," Brooks said.

For a time, potential new patients were turned away simply due to the lack of capacity. The dental clinic now is accepting 16 new patients each week and rarely has a hard time hitting that number.

Last month, the dental clinic had 170 more patient visits compared to July 2013.

While the clinic no longer keeps a waiting list, Brady urged new patients who need to be seen to contact First Care Clinic on a weekly basis.

"Don't get discouraged," he said. "There's just that much demand."

The expansion also will allow existing patients and those needing urgent care to be seen quicker, Brooks said.

"It's going to allow us to treat something in a more timely manner, as opposed to having to diagnose something and then having to wait two months or something to get them in to get the treatment completed," he said.

Staff also recently decided to make a workflow change in hopes of accommodating more patients and allowing dentists to spend more time at each appointment. Routine appointments have been split into two parts -- one for cleaning and another for a dental exam and treatment plan.

"We feel like the patients didn't get enough time with a doctor in that appointment," Brooks said. "It allows us to focus more on cleaning the teeth and getting the patient treated in the way they need to be treated instead of having to rush through everything."

The construction project was funded in part with the help of two grants -- one from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation in Logan and another from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The clinic absorbed the remainder of the approximately $500,000 project.

The new space also includes an improved dental lab and two private exam and procedure rooms.

First Care Clinic is a federally qualified safety net clinic and also offers physical and mental health care. Fees are based on a sliding scale for qualifying patients.