Columbus Council unanimously approved a contract Tuesday with a Georgia health care company to operate a medical clinic for city employees.
The one-year contract will pay TransformHealthRx of Statesboro a monthly fee of $35,707 for staffing of the clinic. The clinic site has not been decided.
The contract also calls for $75,000 for set-up costs, to be spread over 12 months.
Human Resources Director Tom Barron said it is possible that a clinic could be up and operating by April or May, but the location still must be determined.
The contract calls for the clinic to be staffed by a physician or "physician extender," such as a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner, and other staff capable of providing the level of care available at a doctor's office. Radiology and surgery will not be provided.
Employees and their families will be able to use the clinic free of charge, with no co-pay, and will be able to get most prescription medication on-site and free, Barron said.
"This is an early Christmas for both the employees and the taxpayers," Barron said. "Because we're going to save some money with this clinic, and we're going to improve the health care and the health of our employees."
The clinic concept came about as a potential remedy to rising health care costs, which are taking a larger and larger piece of the budget each year. Other cities have been able to provide clinic care for the same money as they were paying for self-insurance coverage, but without the annual increases, Barron said.
The city has been scouting for a potential location for the clinic, which is expected to be about 2,000-2,500 square feet.
Councilors Pops Barnes and Red McDaniel suggested they look closer to home.
"When we finish the City Service Center, we're going to move a lot of departments out of this building," McDaniel said. "Why can't we put the clinic in this building that we already own?"
City Manager Isaiah Hugley said that was discussed as an option, but they felt like having it in the Government Center would be uncomfortable for city workers and their families.
"We wanted to give them a setting that was very similar to what they enjoy with their private physicians today," he said. "We didn't feel like this would be the environment that they would feel comfortable with."
Barnes said the in-house clinic "just makes sense."
"The concept is to save both the municipal government money and the employees," Barnes said.
Barron said the Government Center is "an option, but probably not the most workable option."
"There's more to modifying office space to clinic space than meets the eye," Barron said. "All exam rooms must have plumbing, for example."
Once the site is approved, wherever it is, the clinic provider will need time to set it up and hire personnel.
"There's a lot of work" Barron. "I'm going to get started on it this afternoon.