Franklin County Health Department Director Angie Hittson beamed as she took visitors on tours of her new facility.
The county recently completed an extensive remodel of the former prosecutor’s office, which is now the health department’s new home.
On Thursday, there was an open house for the new facility to give the public a chance to see the building at 414 E. Main St. in downtown Union.
“Everybody is really impressed,” Hittson said. “It’s been a really good response.”
Vivian Miller of Warrenton was pleased with the way the project turned out.
“I really like it compared to the last one,” Miller said. “It’s inviting and friendly.”
Second District County Commissioner Mike Schatz, who helped oversee the project, said he is very happy with the remodel, adding that it was done cost effectively.
“We’ve received nothing but good comments on the building,” he said. “I think it’s very positive for the citizens of Franklin County. I think it’s going to benefit them greatly.”
Schatz said the old building had many flaws and that the new facility is more functional. The new facility has a back-up generator, which, Schatz said, could protect vaccines during a power outage.
Simple things such as good air conditioning are what Hittson finds most exciting about the new facility.
She recalled that the former health department did not have good climate control, which could be a problem, especially when people became nauseated after shots in a hot atmosphere.
Hittson also pointed out that the patient exam rooms have emergency call switches that when pulled can alert the building through strobe lights that a patient needs help.
The patients enjoy the new facility much more, said Tony Buel, health department epidemiology specialist. He noted that there is much more space in the waiting room now, whereas some people had to stand in the prior building.
Moreover, having a better working environment has also improved staff morale, Buel added.
Hittson agreed that the improved health department facility provides a more professional atmosphere. The staff feels more valued working in this type of environment, and the public may look at the health department employees in a more serious light, Hittson noted.
Hittson touted the improved privacy the new facility offers to clients. At the old facility, health department staff did the best it could to give the clients privacy by putting up half walls and moving desks.
But now clients can be assured of privacy, which is important in a health department when personal health information is shared, Hittson said.
“We definitely have a level of privacy we’ve never had before,” Hittson said.
For instance, patients’ heights and weights used to be taken in the hallway, but now there are private exam rooms where this can be done, she noted.
Better access for people with disabilities is also another advantage. The new building has wide hallways to accommodate wheelchairs. People in wheelchairs used to receive shots from their vehicles because of a lack of access.
One side of the new health department is for the women, infants, and children program, which sees about 1,700 clients a month.
The other side is for medical services, including an improved health lab, while the back is private offices, such as for Hittson and emergency preparedness.
Justin Hauser, an emergency preparedness response planner, said he is very pleased with the new building. Now the different aspects of the health department are separated rather than several disciplines mixed together, he said. Hauser added that the architects took much input from the staff on the building design.
The facility, which cost close to $600,000 to remodel, is about 5,500 square feet, which is around 2,200 more than the previous facility, Buel said.
Former health department employee Doris Meyer described the new building as “wonderful, bright and cheerful,” adding that there is “no comparison” to the former facility.