By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER - A local doctor is pumping life back into the former Plummer Memorial Hospital.Dr. Challa Reddy, who purchased the High Street property, will move Dexter Family Practice from its rented quarters downtown to the former hospital once renovations are finished next month.
The new facility, the Reddy Health Center, will offer a wide variety of health-related services, from family practice to podiatry. Patients will be seen at the new facility by late October and an open house will be held in November.
Reddy said he searched for years for property to purchase so he could expand health services, especially for the elderly. When the former hospital owned by Joseph Ploszaj was placed on the market in 2001, the doctor quickly responded.
The former hospital served the medical needs of Dexter-area residents for years before the town joined Hospital Administrative District 4. When it closed in the 1980s, it was purchased by horror writer Stephen King and his novelist wife, Tabitha, who donated it to the town. The town, in turn, sold it to Ploszaj.
Reddy, who is affiliated with Mayo Regional Hospital and Sebasticook Valley Hospital, said this week that he originally had planned to renovate the more-than-10,000-square-foot facility immediately after the closing in September 2001, but the town and country were in turmoil. The closing came at the same time Dexter Shoe Co. announced it would cease its manufacturing operations in the community and terrorists attacked the country, so the project was shelved until this year.
A local contractor, Ronald Sanford of Dexter, was hired for the renovation work.
"It's very exciting for the community to see the building in use," Margaret Towle, Dexter Family Practice office manager, said. She recalled visiting her late grandmother Pauline Shaw when Shaw was a patient at the hospital, and of bringing her daughter Emily to her first doctor's appointment in the building.
Overseeing the renovation work, Towle said every effort is being made to retain certain features of the original building such as the marble stairway, the hardwood floors, the elevator, window trim and wainscoting. "Dr. Reddy doesn't want to change it unless he has to," she said.
The new ambulatory health care center will feature four patient examination rooms, a large reception area featuring a private area for mothers with infants, a fully functional laboratory, an outpatient surgical procedures center, a conference room-kitchen and doctors' offices, all on the second floor.
Care Development of Maine, a foster care program contracted through Department of Human Services, will continue to be housed on the first floor of the building. It will share space on the floor with a holistic pain management center offering acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, osteopathy, physical therapy and behavior therapy. In addition, a classic cosmetology center operated by Reddy's wife, Dr. Usha Reddy, will offer Botox injections, intensive pulse light therapy for the management of unwanted body hair, injections for unsightly veins and procedures for skin care. She is associated with both Dexter Family Practice and Guilford Medical Associates.
Reddy said there will be limited dental care services, podiatry services and a Wellness Center where patients can access information on healthful living as well as chronic disease management. Towle said Reddy has plans in the future for a pharmaceutical shop on the first floor. The third floor likely will be used to house visiting medical students, she said.
A new parking area also is being constructed at the facility which will provide 30 additional spots.
Given the economy and the fact that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have been reduced makes it a challenging move, according to Towle. "Any investment in health care in these times is a risk," she said. The project indicates the doctor's commitment to the region. His first concern always has been to make services affordable and accessible, she said.
Towle said the 10 staff members have been supportive of the move and have been working behind the scenes to ensure that all medical records and office equipment will be in place for opening day. Although Reddy owns the practice, the staff is employed by Mayo Regional Hospital. Reddy pays the hospital a management fee and pays for some accounting services.
Though Reddy will provide some of the same specialized services offered at the two local hospitals, the doctor said the health center is not a competitor. In fact, some of the specialists who will work part-time at the facility are employed by the hospitals. It is more of a collaborative effort, he said, an effort to help those patients who find it difficult to travel.
"The town needs the local services," Reddy said.
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