BIS Clinic opens doors

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BEDIAS — Whether it is fires or floods, the dreamers and innovators of the Bedias community refuse to go quietly into that good night. Hurricane Harvey delayed the Sept. 11 opening of the BIS Clinic, which did open for business on Monday.

Making the dream happen

Four months ago, clinic owner Elizabeth Ellis, DNP, RN, began work on making a 7-year community dream a reality with the BIS (Bedias, Iola, Singleton) Clinic but Ellis doesn’t take all the credit.

She said, “We couldn’t have done it without our partners and the support of the community.”

Before Harvey disrupted the scheduled opening, the two-week countdown to opening day included completion of minor contractor work, moving in office furniture and medical equipment and training new Patient Access Representative, Nicole Plaster.

Ellis said, “Harvey has delayed our opening and at this point we do not have a solid date.”

In what were previously two large rooms in the former Bedias print shop, there now exists a waiting room, staff office space, two exam rooms, a storage area and a wheelchair accessible restroom, with the ability to add a third exam room if growth warrants it.

Utilizing modern technology such as battery-operated laptops, backup batteries, internet-based phones and her personal cell phone, Ellis said the clinic will still be able to function if there is a power outage so communication with the clinic will never be lost.

Ellis continued, “Our contractor Kenny Watson and his crew, and all the vendors from the area, have just been incredible. Kenny made sure that every detail is looked at, relooked at and brought to perfection, carefully thinking through things and coming up with innovative ideas.”

Clinic supporter Bedias Mayor Mackie Bobo-White said, “She dreamed the dream and she’s made it happen. We’ve just been a facilitator when we can.”

Full primary care

Ellis, a doctorate level nurse practitioner, is board certified in family practice, has extensive experience working at UT Health Science Center in the Houston, the Memorial Hermann Health System and years of expertise in opening and establishing outpatient clinics for MHHS.

“We’ll provide full primary care — all ages seen, acute visits, chronic visits, well visits, sports physicals and vaccines for adults and children,” Ellis said.

And that includes home visits.

She clarified, “Not home health but home visits, basically, taking the primary care office visit to their home. We will also do some employer solutions services — first accident evaluation, drug screens and pre-employment physicals.”

Complying with state licensing and supervision regulations, Ellis will be collaborating with Dr. Mary Helen Morrow from Madisonville and Dr. Russell Bacak from Bryan-College Station.

From clinic to hospital

Giving the difficulty of managing the care of hospitalized patients and clinic patients, rural healthcare providers have turned to “hospitalists” who do nothing but care for patients in the hospital and “are much more highly trained to manage critical care.”

“We’ve contracted with a hospitalist group who will manage our patients at CHI St. Joseph and at Memorial Hermann,” said Ellis. “I will be affiliated myself with St. Joseph and Baylor Scott and White, and the Baylor Scott and White hospitalist team will manage our patients.”

Perseverance required

Despite the hand-wringing over the lack of rural health care, Bobo-White said, “The government is not making it easy.”

Nurse practitioners and even physicians are willing to get into these communities, said Ellis, “But the hoops, the legalities, insurance and credentialing issues — it’s very hard. You have to be one who’s willing to persevere to make it and open your doors.”

She praised State Sen. Charles Schwertner, State Rep. Leighton Schubert, U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady and their staff for legislative support.

“Senate bill 654 clarified some language with the Medicaid HMOs that as a nurse practitioner, I can be a primary care provider.”

RHC accreditation

Rural Health Clinic accreditation through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is also challenging. The unscheduled, “surprise” visit will take place the first month BIS is open and Ellis will know at the end of the day if they passed inspection, but it can take a year to be issued a RHC number and reapply as an RHC to Medicare and Medicaid before seeing results in their reimbursement rate.

“The payment system will change for the better and help us keep the lights on,” said Ellis. “The key is we’re bringing health care to a Health Care Provider Shortage Area (HPSA),” a component of rural health care accreditation.

As a privately owned for-profit facility, grant funding is limited but grants are out there.

“The clinic is providing a service to the community whether it’s a for-profit or not-for-profit, and grants are available to allow that to happen,” Bobo-White said.

Ellis is grateful for the private donors “who believe in our cause and the value of bringing health care to the community” through monetary donations, equipment or services.

The Bedias connection

Ellis has become a familiar and welcome figure about town and she is no stranger to country life despite her credentials. Her husband, Jerry, hunted in Bedias as a child, and on their ranch between Bedias and Iola, Ellis breeds, raises and shows miniature horses and wire-haired dachshunds.

But it was Ellis’s discovery that she will be the fourth health care professional in Bedias’ history to receive their training and diploma from the University of Tennessee at Memphis that was especially meaningful. She is proud to be following in the footsteps of fellow alumni Dr. Bev Harrison class of 1897, Dr. Carl Barnes class of 1902 and his brother, Dr. Luther Barnes class of 1907, in raising the standard of health care and improving the quality of life for the residents of northern Grimes County.

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