NEW BEDFORD — After two years of swimming against the tide of COVID-19 and the relentless flow of immediate needs, it seems Greater New Bedford Community Health Center officials will finally be able to address some of its most ambitious goals of improving the efficiency of telehealth appointments and streamlining public access, through a Federal funding of $138 million for community projects throughout Massachusetts.
Cheryl Bartlett, CEO of the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, said the announced $2 million as the health center’s allocation signifies major “wish list” items of technology upgrades and a construction project that would create a central registration area can go beyond rough ideas.
“All of the discussions have been very preliminary,” Bartlett told the Standard-Times of the talks around the projects. “With that, it became more real.”
In terms of technology, Bartlett said the main component of the upgrades would be the purchase of equipment that would allow healthcare providers to use video for telehealth appointments.
Why telehealth upgrades are so important
“Telehealth has been primarily by phone and not video, so we would need equipment to see the patient. It’s obviously better than just talking when you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with someone. health-wise,” Bartlett says.
In addition to providing visual health cues, telehealth equipment would also improve care efficiency, Bartlett said. “Right now, if you go into a doctor’s office, usually a medical assistant will bring you in, take your blood pressure, and ask you a few questions to get things started. Right now, a provider has to do all of those steps alone just because we don’t have the technology to get multiple people into the room,” she explained. “And with our need to protect patient privacy, we need to make sure we have high security, so that also comes into consideration.”
Possibility to increase the capacity
Regarding the construction project, Bartlett says that although construction planning has not yet begun, the initial idea is to slightly expand part of the building in the rear parking lot to create a new focal point there. ‘Entrance. Besides being a cosmetic improvement, Bartlett said the change would help with logistics.
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“Right now you can go through two or three different places depending on what you’re coming for. Most people go through our urgent care department which is quite crowded,” Bartlett said. “With this improvement, we will increase capacity, make it easier to move around in this part of the building and it will be much better for social distancing, especially in bad weather.”
While a number of steps should take place before the project is ready to go, Bartlett says the $2 million set aside for the health center means officials can start working out the details. “I started to feel confident enough for someone to start doing concept design, get some of my operations team together so we can talk about how we see this playing out and get some help putting that into architectural plans,” she said.
Bartlett noted that with construction cost inflation and other moving factors, it is difficult to yet estimate whether the funding will fully cover the projects.
The funding announced earlier this week for the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center capital projects is part of the proposed Congressional Directed Expenditure (CDS) bill for fiscal year 2022. According to a press release, the total bill amount of $138,667,990 was split between 120 community projects, including $975,000 for a “reduction unit” at St. Luke’s Hospital Trauma Center and $1,500,000 for the “urban renewal plan, parking and facility improvements” in Fall River.
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“Residents of Southeast Massachusetts and the Commonwealth as a whole will benefit immensely from these federal funds, which flow directly from the close working relationship of the Massachusetts delegation,” Congressman Bill Keating said in a press release. .
The Greater New Bedford Community Health Center is located at 874 Purchase St. in downtown New Bedford.
For a complete list of projects funded by the Congressional Directed Spending (CDS) bill, click here.