INDEPENDENCE – Truman Medical Centers plans to expand its presence in the area around Ash and Independence avenues, breaking ground Wednesday on a new permanent facility.
“A lot of people have been interested in us being here,” said Dr. Randall Cramer, a physician who works at Truman’s Fairmount Family Medical Care, a temporary facility serving the neighborhood that Truman opened in November in a 2,400 square-feet double-wide trailer.
The permanent structure will be about four times larger. The old Calico Cat bar will be demolished to make room for the $2.4 million project, which should be completed by no later than the middle of next year, according to Charlie Shields, chief operating officer of Truman’s Lakewood campus, which is nearby in eastern Jackson County.
As a one-man operation in the doublewide, Cramer’s practice provides basic primary care to patients.
The expanded clinic also will offer behavioral health, specialty care and a range of services for patients ranging in age from newborn to senior citizen, Truman officials said.
Before the temporary clinic was opened, Cramer saw patients for about a year in locations in Grain Valley and Independence. He is originally from Boise, Idaho, and practiced for three years in Joplin, Mo., before he began working with Truman.
Since the temporary clinic opened, he has more than doubled his patient load to about 1,200 people, Truman officials said.
Some patients are nearby. Others drive to the clinic.
Cramer said one man in his 90s walked to the site for help treating a cold. But he said he also sees patients who live a half-hour drive away.
In the immediate vicinity, census figures show that more than one in five Fairmount families lives below the federal poverty level. And nearly 20 percent of the neighborhood’s residents are 62 years of age or older.
Swope Health Services also has announced plans to construct a new clinic in Independence by the end of the year.
Cramer said elderly patients in particular were happy to have somewhere close to home for things like routine blood work. In the past, he said, that might have required a trip to Lakewood.
Shields grew up in Independence and spent two decades representing the St. Joseph area in the Missouri General Assembly.
Three years ago, when he took to take the job at Lakewood, it was clear Fairmount had a shortage of primary care services, especially for Medicaid patients, Shields said.
The community also felt disenfranchised after HCA Midwest Health System closed Independence Regional Hospital in 2007 to make way for its newly constructed Centerpoint Medical Center, he said.
“The need is there,” Shields said. “The folks we are already serving, a lot of them are coming a long way to get services (at Lakewood) – so it’s a really natural fit.”
Shields said Truman officials also hoped the clinic would help spark economic development in Fairmount. He said the health system ultimately wants to own all the property fronting Independence Avenue between Hardy and Ash avenues.
Bill Rogers, who was born and raised in Fairmount and still lives there, said that all sounded good to him.
He recently retired as executive director of the Northwest Communities Development Corp., a nonprofit that serves senior citizens.
He also is one of Cramer’s patients. He said that was more convenient for him than seeing his former doctor at offices in Kansas City. Rogers said Cramer was personable, patient, and accessible to the community.
Truman has already helped the community by donating a 10-passenger bus that Northwest Communities uses to transport people to its senior center, Rogers said.
“They have really stepped up,” he said, “and they are a great partner for activities that are going on in the neighborhood and I’m excited about what may come out of this development.”