CHI Memorial

CHI Memorial will be the county's new health care provider. (Contributed photo)

Walker County has signed a three-year agreement with CHI Memorial to be the county's health provider.

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield announced the agreement during his Dec. 28 commissioner's meeting.

The agreement will ensure health care for about 400 county employees and their families.

CHI Memorial will begin providing services for the county on Jan. 2, 2018.

Whitfield said the county has had the onsite clinic for a number of years. It was operating four-and-a-half days per week.

Whitfield, during his Dec. 14 meeting, announced that the agreement between the county and provider Southern Clinic Solutions would end on Dec. 29. Whitfield then tabled the matter and did not name the new provider until the Dec. 28 meeting.

The city of LaFayette in December voted to move from the current onsite clinic.

The county and the city had an intergovernmental agreement set years ago to help share the costs of providing coverage to their employees.

In the LaFayette meeting, Mayor Andy Arnold said the original clinic did a "great job" and served its purpose, but the benefits of change would be best for the city.

Whitfield, when he took office a year ago, said he was looking for ways to reduce costs and improve access to health care for county employees. One of his concerns involved getting the county out of dispensing prescribed medications onsite because it is a liability to the county, he said.

"We needed a more suitable facility. The facility here is not up to par ... like it should be. So being able to partner with Memorial Health Systems, they have been able to offer us two locations of service, one being here in LaFayette ... And also, they have a location in Chickamauga," Whitfield said.

City of LaFayette employees will also be able to use either the CHI-run clinic in LaFayette or the one in Chickamauga.

This agreement offers the county more hours of service, with five-and-a-half days per week. Whitfield said those hours might be expanded in the future.

Whitfield said the new agreement is expected to save the county about $40,000 per year.

"So, not only are we going to be able to provide a higher level of care and service in multiple locations and extended hours, we are going to be able to capture those synergies of reducing our cost by about $40,000," Whitfield said.

"We are very excited about this and feel like that this will be a great partnership for Walker County," Whitfield said.

According to a press release from the commissioner's office, the new agreement will provide covered employees access to a wellness coach, tobacco cessation resources and multiple clinic locations providing preventative and urgent medical care including pharmacy and laboratory services.

The county will work with CHI to offer a health risk assessment to employees by being able to "prevent things like diabetes or a heart attack, producing happier, healthier employees."

In 2018, the county plans to utilized the new wellness program to help its employees stop smoking.

"My goal has been to take our clinic experience for our team members to a higher level of care. CHI Memorial is the best partner for Walker County to help us achieve this goal," Whitfield said in the release.

"CHI Memorial Workplace Health is committed to delivering a comprehensive corporate health and wellness program with preventative and urgent care services, and health coaching for chronic conditions that helps employees improve their health and well-being so they can lead healthier, productive lives," said Andrew McGill, CHI Memorial senior vice president, strategy and business development.

Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at jobryant@npco.com.