Truman Medical Center opened its first primary care clinic inside a YMCA Thursday, in a melding of health maintenance and health care that the two organizations hope will spread across Kansas City and ultimately nationally.
The new University Health clinic is located inside the YMCA at 3800 E. Linwood Blvd. Bobbie Pearson, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years, said it's filling a critical need.
"It's going to be so much easier for people around here to see a nurse or a doctor in the community, because we don't see that too much," Pearson said.
The clinic is part of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City's ongoing effort to partner with the medical community, which also includes hiring the first staff physician at any YMCA.
That doctor, Daphne Bascom, works at the Kansas City YMCA headquarters as its senior vice president of community integrated health.
David Byrd, the CEO of the Kansas City YMCA, said Bascom is now consulting with YMCAs in other parts of the country.
"We're already getting national recognition for what this is about," Byrd said.
Byrd said his original idea was for a "tiny" clinic inside the Linwood location after it was renovated and expanded last year.
But after Truman's president and CEO, Charlie Shields, started planning, it turned into the 7,000-square-foot wing with 12 exam rooms a lab and four physicians employed by University Health, Truman's primary care division.
Shields said the partnership between Truman and the YMCA is natural. YMCAs were traditionally built as Christian social service centers in underserved communities. They have since became hubs for healthy living with gyms, pools and workout classes with membership subsidies based on income. Truman provides medical care for low-income populations as the safety net hospital for Jackson County.
Shields thanked county officials and the Kansas City Council for supporting the YMCA clinic.
"This is a community that has committed itself to making sure the underserved population always has access to great health care," Shields said.
Council members Quinton Lucas and Jermaine Reed were on hand for Thursday's opening. Reed said the new clinic represented a redemptive project after Truman abandoned plans for a clinic in a grocery store at 27th and Troost.
"I am proud to be able to stand here today and say there was not a renege on that because this is an extension of that conversation," Reed said.
Byrd and Shields said they foresee the doctors referring people with chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure down to the hall to YMCA programs that can help them manage those conditions, in addition to prescribing drugs or physical therapy.
Byrd said the YMCA plans to partner with Truman again for a clinic in the downtown Kansas City location once that one is renovated and is in talks with the University of Kansas Hospital to place a clinic at a new YMCA planned for the "Healthy Campus" project in downtown Kansas City, Kan.
That project, a longtime goal of former mayor Mark Holland, is on hold indefinitely as the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., work out concerns over getting a grocery store included. But Byrd said he remains optimistic it will happen.
Pearson, who is 80, said she's just glad she won't have to travel to see a doctor.
She's already been going to the Linwood YMCA for 10 years for its Silver Sneakers exercise program for seniors, taught by wellness coach Estelle Williams.
"Listen, when Estelle gets through with you, you have been worked out," Pearson said.