ROCKFORD — As a clinic physician, Dr. Janusz Mejer sometimes saw 60 patients a day.
He’ll see only 12 patients a day when the city of Rockford Wellness Center officially opens next week in the former Fran Kral car dealership, 120 N. Third St., that aldermen voted to buy last year for $400,000.
“It’s better,” said Mejer of the caseload. “You can actually provide the medical care. That’s why you go to medical school.”
Mejer is one of four Marathon Health for Life employees who will staff the center under a contract with the city. The city is self-insured and provides coverage for 3,200 employees.
It is betting that its $888,746 investment in Marathon and the center will save $250,000 the first year and $4.5 million over five years.
“The wellness center is expected to reduce costs to our health fund through the redirection of our current health care spending to direct contracting with a primary, wellness focused medical provider for our employees and their families,” City Human Resources Director Julia Scott-Valdez wrote Thursday in a memo to the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee.
The center opened quietly this week so the staff — the physician, a nurse practitioner and a full- and a part-time medical assistant — could get familiar with procedures and work flow. The official opening is next week.
The center will provide clinic services such as illness treatment, lab work and free medical dispensing. Some medicines will be free.
The center will key in on preventative care, providing cholesterol tests and other screenings, and coaching for health issues, nutrition, weight loss, stress management, smoking cessation and exercise. There is an audiology booth to test hearing and eye charts on the wall for vision testing.
The center will also give chronic conditioning coaching for patients with diabetes, heart trouble, high blood pressure or back pain.
Nurse practitioner Kristina Passanelli said traditional clinics follow a fee-for-service model. But the wellness center is designed to be a health partner, not a health nagger. Instead of telling patients they need to lose weight or eat better, she said it’s her job to help them set goals and tackle barriers in the way of those goals.
“This gives us the tools to empower patients and engage them in their own health care,” she said.