MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

June 26, 2013

Makeover complete: Wagoner Health Department wraps up renovation

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— After a six month add-on turned into a yearlong construction project, the Wagoner County Health Department is serving clients in a renovated building.

Linda Hattaway, the administrator of the Adair, Muskogee, Sequoyah and Wagoner County departments, said one thing after another kept delaying the project.

“The building leaked before, and they found concrete in the lines,” Hattaway said. So we had more plumbing issues than we thought. They also had problems with the roof, and last summer it got too hot for the workers to do their jobs safely. I was told it was harder to build on to this building than it would have been to just tear it down and start over.”

As of June 10, the health department is back up and running, with only a few small hiccups remaining. Clients, who had been going to Coweta for services, can now save time and gas money by staying closer to home.

Hattaway said the list of improvements was something for the town and the county to be proud of. The building features an additional 3,600 square feet, which allowed room for a bigger lab, a safe room and the addition of three large offices, two extra exam rooms and a brand new community room.

“Health care is changing,” Hattaway said. “Up until now, we had been a safety net for those in need of family planning services. Through the Family Care Act, we may do less of that direct service and more education. Those community rooms will let us house those education classes here and not have to do them offsite.”

Diana Smith, a Wagoner resident, said she likes the new facility.

“I like how they have it set up,” Smith said. “It’s bigger and more comfortable. I’m glad to see it open again.”

The safe room, which during non-essential times is used as a nursing room for mothers, has already been put to good use by the county.

Roger Schilling, the local emergency response coordinator, said the safe room offered security and peace of mind.

“When the tornado happened in Broken Arrow last month, we had people in here,” said Schilling. “Everything was tracking this way, and we opened it up for the community. It’s already paid for itself when you think about it.”

The add-on alone cost around $800,000, and Hattaway said the department had the money saved up, so it is now completely paid for.

“We tried to make everything in here serve a dual purpose,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we could grow if needed.”

The remodeled facility sports a lab that is more than twice the size of the old one, which allows Julia Phillips, the coordinating nurse for the department, more room to do her job.

“In the old lab we had refrigerators in front of a door because there wasn’t room for it,” Phillips said. “Ideally you want to have bodily fluids for testing in a different place from children’s vaccines, and we can do that now.”

The facility now also doubles as the Emergency Center of Operations for Wagoner County because of the increased space and the addition of dedicated phone and Internet lines for multiple personnel.

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat@muskogeephoenix.com.