Residents of Hobbs and Lea County will soon have more access to a variety of medical care thanks to a project about a year in the making.
Nor-Lea Hospital District of Lovington is in the preliminary stages of a planned expansion of its Hobbs Medical Clinic and Outreach Laboratory on North Dal Paso Street. Dan Hamilton, chief operating officer for the hospital district, said the focus of the new clinic will be multifaceted.
“We’re really going to focus on pediatrics and maintain our focus on primary care,” Hamilton said. “This is a new clinic being added on to an old clinic.
“This will be a rural health clinic,” he said. “It will include pediatrics, family practice and internal medicine practices. This will be for all age groups.”
The existing clinic currently houses lab facilities, along with a pediatric nurse practitioner and family practice providers. Nor-Lea plans to increase staff with eight new providers in place by the time the clinic project is complete, Hamilton said.
One of the providers, family practice physician Dr. Kavitha Kirubanandan, has already joined the staff at Hobbs Medical Clinic. Kirubanandan came to Nor-Lea in Hobbs earlier this year, Hamilton said.
Preliminary site prep, including orange-wrapped security fencing, started Monday, he said. The project is anticipated to take about 10 months to complete.
In addition to a new meeting area and laboratory facilities, plans call for the addition of new immunization clinic at the facility, Hamilton said. Direct patient care will be provided based around a “pod” system.
“There will be two pods,” Hamilton told the News-Sun. “Each pod will house four providers. There will be four offices with support space in the middle, then 12 examination rooms (per pod) around it. So we’ll have 24 new exam rooms total.”
Planning for the clinic addition started more than a year ago, based on a community needs assessment showing the need for additional family practice and internal medicine services, Hamilton said.
The hospital district hoped to have the new clinic up and running by the end of 2020, but several issues kept pushing the start date back, he said.
One of the factors delaying the start of the project was the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton said. But sorting out the land for the clinic expansion probably consumed the most time and effort for this project, he added.
Lubbock-based Covenant Health owned the piece of property selected for the project. Nor-Lea staff brokered conversations between officials from Covenant and Lea County, which eventually bought the property and will lease it to Nor-Lea for the clinic and adjacent parking.
The expansion “will make things flow easier,” he said. “Right now, it’s kind of crowded.”
There will be little if any crossed purposes between the expanded Nor-Lea Clinic and the current Covenant Hobbs Hospital, which is currently in process of building a $117 million, 60-bed hospital on the southeast side of Lovington Highway at Millen Drive, said Covenant Hobbs CEO Dan Springer. The two health systems will compliment each other, he said.
“It’s kind of this concept of a rising tide lifts all ships,” Springer said. “As health care gets better and there’s more access, it’s going to be better for everyone. This is a good thing for Hobbs.”
The expanded Nor-Lea Hobbs Medical Clinic will serve more as a primary-care facility, Springer and Hamilton said. Covenant Hobbs does provide pediatric services, but only on an in-patient basis, Springer said.
“It really is a good partnership between us and Nor-Lea,” Springer said. “They have the ability to do family practice because of their critical access nature and the way their clinics are structured. Their family practice is really strong. They do it very well, recruiting into their rural health clinics. For years, they’ve had a very strong primary care presence.”
In addition to the Hobbs Medical Clinic and Outreach Laboratory, Nor-Lea Hospital District operates a the Hobbs Pediatric Specialty Clinic, Family Health Center of Lea County and Eagle Student Health Center in Hobbs and the Tatum Medical Clinic in Tatum, in addition to the hospital campus in Lovington. The Nor-Lea Hobbs clinic, with the planned addition of walk-in and same day services, will increase access for patients while decreasing wait times to see a healthcare provider, Hamilton said.
“This means expanded availability for appointments,” he said. “Right now, depending on the provider, it could be anywhere from two to four weeks to get an appointment. We will have more doctors to see more people.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” Hamilton said. “Now we’re very excited to get that clinic project started and we’ll be more excited when it’s done.”