CLEARWATER — Friday morning was a special one for the staff of the Margaret J. Weston Community Health Center.
The center had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology wing. Construction of the wing started on Nov. 1, 2011, and was originally expected to last six months. The reasoning behind the extended timetable was due to several reasons, including timing issues, the process of attaining permits and cabinetry problems.
The expansion cost was funded through a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
“We are honored to be able to continue the legacy of a pioneer and a visionary, Margaret Jackson Weston, as we celebrate the opening of this new addition the health centers that bear her name,” said Mona Flanigan, board chair.
The staff all noted that the addition would not have been possible if not for the USDA Rural Development, which green-lighted the project in February 2011.
“This is a dream that started years and years ago with Ms. Weston, and it has since moved on,” said Sue Wren of USDA Rural Development. “In March 2011, through the hard work of not just the individuals here at Margaret J. Weston, but also the individuals from Rural Development, we were able to obligate a loan for $1,658,650, and in 2012, we did a subsequent loan for $142,000 to expand the parking area.”
Through the loan funds, the USDA and Margaret J. Weston’s staff were able to renovate the 12,000-square-foot medical facility and add 3,600 additional square feet. The staffing also has increased to include a family practitioner, an obstetrician, gynecologist, pediatric doctor and a pharmacy.
“It means serving an additional 2,700 patients from this general area, and it allows us to separate the pediatrics and pregnant women on one end of the building,” said Carolyn Emanuel-McClain, CEO of Margaret J. Weston Community Health Center. “We can put sick children in a room so that the infectious diseases do not spread to others who are waiting to be seen. We also have translation services for bilingual people. It’s just a building block that is just going to allow us to build throughout the county.”
McClain noted that the center hopes to break ground next month to construct a 26,000-square-foot facility in Aiken. That facility will be funded through a $5 million grant from the Affordable Care Act.