By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
About 100 people, from high school students to state lawmakers, got the opportunity Monday (August 29) to get a sneak preview of Escambia County Health Care Authority’s new urgent care center, the precursor to a new community hospital.
Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce officials and Ambassadors were on hand for the facility’s ribbon cutting, which followed remarks from two local healthcare officials and a moving tribute to the woman who perhaps pushed hardest to improve the quality of medical treatment within the community and beyond.
Atmore Community Hospital (ACH) Administrator Brad Lowery noted that the opening of the urgent care center — located off Alabama 21, across from Wind Creek Casino — has been anticipated for some time, and Escambia County Health Care Authority (ECHCA) Chair Debbie Rowell agreed.
“This has been a long time coming,” Lowery said. “There’s been a need in the community that surely deserves to have a new healthcare facility and really drive health improvements for the county.”
David Landis read a prayer of dedication, then Rowell expounded on the subject after thanking everyone involved in bringing the project to fruition.
“The first thing I can say is ‘hallelujah, we’re about to open the doors for business here.’ It’s been about a year since the start of construction, but probably we were working on this three years prior to that. Thankfully, we’re here.”
In his follow-up remarks, Lowery explained that Atmore Urgent Care is the first stage in making the surrounding area a medical mecca for residents of Atmore and the surrounding area, as well as those from beyond the city’s and county’s borders.
“This is just Phase 1 for us,” the ACH administrator said. “Really, the end game has always been to have a new hospital and have something not just for Atmore but for the community. I think one neat thing, now that we’ve been really bearing up much better under the health care authority, with D.W. McMillan (Memorial Hospital in Brewton). We partner not only across the county, but with Poarch and other areas that really can impact community health. That’s a big deal.”
Former ECHCA Chair Nancy Lowrey then presented the tribute to Ruth Harrell, who was a tireless advocate for improved healthcare, in Atmore and across the state until shortly before her death in 2020.
Several members of Ms. Harrell’s family stood with Lowrey, including Jo Nolin, David Nolin, Gordon and JoLynn Nolin Godwin, and Nolin Godwin.
“Most of you still recognize the lady,” the former ECHCA chair said. “She was a leader for healthcare reform and served many years on the board before I joined. Ms. Ruth was such a leader. I don’t think there’s many times we have a meeting now where we’re discussing a problem that we (don’t) say, ‘What would Ms. Ruth do?’
“She was really instrumental in us moving forward with this, and with our next step. We’re glad to have this phase of it completed and we’re looking forward to the next step. We just felt that we wanted to honor Ms. Ruth for sure today.”
The new Atmore facility will be staffed by Certified Nurse Practitioners Matthew Barnett, Keith Classen and Alison Gibson and will offer non-emergent care for Atmore and surrounding communities.
Atmore Urgent Care will replace the current walk-in clinic, ACH MedPlus. The building in which ACH MedPlus currently operates will become ACH Specialty Care and will house visiting physicians and clinics on a rotating basis.
The new urgent care Clinic will feature a lab, x-ray equipment, a pharmacy and wellness care. The professionals there began seeing patients on Tuesday, August 30. It is now open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Sundays.