Dirt turned for new Urgent Care facility
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
“Excited” abounded as the word of the day during the Tuesday, June 29, groundbreaking for the new urgent care facility that will be built near Interstate 65, across from Wind Creek Hotel and Casino.
The $3.5 million medical facility, a joint venture of Escambia County Healthcare Authority (ECHCA) and Atmore Community Hospital, is the first step in a new, modern medical complex that will include a new hospital and has been on the drawing board for more than two years.
“We are extremely excited to be at this milestone,” said Brad Lowery, newly appointed ACH administrator. “We couldn’t have done this without the city, the council members and the rest of the community behind us. We’ve gotten a lot of support, even during COVID, towards this project. We’re all excited … to take one step toward improving healthcare in Escambia County, Alabama.”
Debbie Rowell, who chairs ECHCA, continued the theme of excitement that ran through virtually everyone affiliated with the project.
“We’re very excited,” Rowell said. “It’s sort of like the first step in our venture to get construction started here.”
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff shared the group’s enthusiasm and elation.
“Y’all just don’t really know how fantastic this is,” he said. “Just think, one of these days there’s going to be a building there that’s going to be the showcase for Atmore and Escambia County. It has been a long, uphill battle, but we got it. It’s almost too much for words.”
Former ECHCA CEO Chris Griffin was next to speak, pointing out that such projects work out a lot smoother when everyone involved is pulling together.
“I’ve been fortunate to be involved the past three or four years in what’s going on in this part of the county,” Griffin said. “This is a true partnership. You see what can happen when everybody comes together — the county commission, city council, mayor, bankers, architects and contractor. I think you’ll all be proud of what you have.”
Jeff Booth, who replaced Griffin as CEO about two months ago, said the new facility will be more than just a building.
“Our strategy for moving to this site is not just a new building for the site,” he said. “We are passionate about beginning to do an expansion of the impact on the health of all citizens of Escambia County. Healthcare is one thing we take very seriously.
“We also want to use this initiative to expand the front-end of wellness, screening and so on, the type things that unfortunately are not as advanced as they should be in many counties in the Southeast. We’re excited about this; it’s going to be a tremendous clinical offering with some really good professionals leading that effort here.”
Lowery reiterated his excitement in his closing comments, then a group of local medical professionals and healthcare authority board members dug shovels into the mound of clay that had been prepared for the occasion.
“We’re committed to this community, and we feel y’all are committed to us,” he said. “We’re excited we’re able to get to this point.”
Even David Landis, whose company designed and fabricated the “Coming Soon” signs that have been placed along Alabama 21 at the site, voiced excitement during the prayer he offered prior to the groundbreaking.
“This is an exciting day for us all here, Lord,” he said during the prayer. “We pray it will be something to give You lots of glory.”
Booth announced during the ceremony that the new urgent care facility is expected to open “around the end of March next year (2022).” Local healthcare professionals Keith Classen and Matthew Barnett are slated to be the primary medical personnel.