A New Horizon of Healthcare

A New Horizon of Healthcare

Medical Clinic Facility Serves Uninsured, Underserved

Access to affordable healthcare is a highly debated topic in the United States. It has been used as a political platform and debated between candidates for offices at all levels of government. But no matter where one stands on how access to healthcare is provided, most agree it's needed.

In Brownsville, Texas, the Brownsville Community Health Center (BCHC) has taken politics out of the equation. Brownsville and surrounding areas needed more medical care, and the BCHC took a giant step forward in providing that healthcare with the recent opening of the New Horizon Medical Center.

One for All

A 47,000-square-foot clinic building, New Horizon Medical Center, designed by Burns & McDonnell, is the first building in a campus master plan developed by Burns & McDonnell. The campus is expected to feature additional buildings that could be used for training and allied healthcare services.

It complements BCHC's three existing facilities by adding specialized clinics for obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, primary care, behavioral health, dental, radiology, laboratory, and visiting physicians. The facility also features a drive-up pharmacy and a mechanical system that allows individual areas of the building to be open outside normal operating hours.

"Patients now have local access to many of the preventive and diagnostic healthcare services they need in a modern, more efficient setting," says Mark Kohles, Burns & McDonnell project manager, who led the master plan and design services for BCHC. "Physicians and other healthcare professionals will also benefit from the improved facilities."

Because of the cultural mix in Brownsville, which sits on the border with Mexico, all signage within the facility is bilingual. But designers took an extra step toward easy way finding by color coding each waiting area and coordinating floor tiles to direct visitors to the appropriate area. The waiting areas also feature half-height walls between the waiting room and the corridor, giving the space a more open feel. The entire facility is a reflection of the diverse population of the city.

"The BCHC leadership wanted a design that reflects the traditional Fort Brown style of architecture, as well as the Mesoamerican history of many Brownsville residents," says Rick Keeler, senior vice president and general manager of the Burns & McDonnell Healthcare & Research Facilities Group. "The entry feature is a stylized representation of such sites as the Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza and has become a recognizable feature in the city's landscape."

On its opening day in July 2011, the clinic welcomed more than 80 new patients to BCHC services. That's a testament to the need New Horizon Medical Center fills, especially considering its clinics are available for everyone, from insured residents to the underserved and uninsured. Filling that need by providing a modern facility with the unique features required for the region is a dream come true for Paula Gomez, BCHC executive director.

"Our board and staff have been impressed with Burns & McDonnell's expertise in the construction of medical facilities and certainly appreciate their ability to work, communicate and accommodate such a large and diverse group of healthcare professionals and board members," Gomez says.

All About Timing

When final designs were complete, the BCHC was securing funding through a federally guaranteed loan. But two 2008 events changed everything.

First, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made new grants available for nonprofit medical facilities like this one. By delaying construction, the BCHC stood the chance of building the new facility and coming out debt free.

"It was the perfect ‘shovel ready' job for stimulus funds," Keeler said. "It's exactly who the reinvestment act was designed to help."

The delay put the project on hold for nearly two years, but it also held the potential to free up funds to improve healthcare services.

Then Hurricane Ike hit in September 2008. The Category 2 hurricane caused destruction across Texas and resulted in the largest evacuation in the state's history. That's when the BCHC realized its building could be more than a medical facility.

"The delay helped provide the sustainable, multifaceted facility that exists today," Kohles says. "We were able to do some redesigning during those two years to allow for added generation capacity, showers, emergency backup power and other features to make it suitable as a community shelter during weather emergencies."

A Sustainable Community

Part of the BCHC's mission was to create a sustainable facility that lends itself to a sustainable community. The facility features a large auditorium that can be divided into six smaller conference rooms, including a kitchen where families can receive nutrition training. It has already hosted a grand opening carnival, and the BCHC board members hope it will be the site of other events.

The extra time provided another advantage — adding design elements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The building is designed to LEED Silver levels, and it has the potential to achieve LEED Gold if the BCHC secures a grant to install solar panels. The facility already has the framework and electrical system for the solar panels, which would provide enough energy to heat water for the facility and power its outlets - one more way the facility can better serve the community.

"That's the kind of symbol this building is for the community," Kohles says. "It's not just for personal health, but for the well-being of the entire community."

For more information, contact Mark Kohles, 816-822-4234.

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