The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Health Center Breaks Ground For Brent Family Pharmacy

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher

Mrs. Ivah Hufnagel would be extremely proud if she were alive today to see property she had donated for a county health facility now include a pharmacy.

Hufnagel of Oquawka, died at age 97 on May 16, 2002, just ten days after Melinda Whiteman of Biggsville became the new director of the Henderson County Rural Health Center. The two had never met, but they shared a deep passion for residents needing health care.

Mrs. Hufnagel also served as a member of the first Board of Directors. She had returned to her hometown of Oquawka after moving to Chicago and served as a public health nurse, a teacher in the Chicago area, and member of the Chicago Board of Health and Des Plaines Health Department.

Now her legacy continues as groundbreaking for a 1400 square foot building begins construction for the Brent Family Pharmacy that will deliver prescription drugs to anyone within the county, free of delivery charges.

The Henderson County Rural Health Center board and staff members are extremely happy and this also would be so exciting for Hufnagel, her son Tom said, who attended the event. Another brother Charles was unable to attend.

According to Board of Directors Carol Seitz, there has been a lot of ups and downs to a project of this size, and she offered a big "thank you" to Melinda for all her extra hours of work. "This is a big plus for Henderson County and the surrounding areas," she said.

Melinda Whiteman encouraged all to let Senator John Sullivan, Representative Rich Myers, and Congressman Phil Hares know how much the community rural health care center means. They are the ones who make policy and procedures.

"A plus in our pharmacy, Whiteman said, is the fact that we are able to take part in the 340B program that allows us to purchase drugs at a lower price and pass that discount on to our patients. We are designed to help everyone, including the uninsured and the underinsured."

Whiteman said in the five years she has been director, a pharmacy is one thing they wanted to bring back. There hadn't been one for at least 10 years and they really wanted to bring one back to the county.

Whiteman said about two years ago, she and Rodney Brent of Gladstone, (one of four pharmacists in the Brent family) started talking about what they could do to bring a pharmacy to the county, meeting every couple of months. She would look at what they can do on her end and he would look at what they could do on his end to find out how this would work, and what they needed to do to make this happen.

Then they invited Senator John Sullivan to hear their goals designed by their board at a strategic planning retreat. He was pleased with what he heard, had not been here before, and they continued to talk until last year when they were able to earmark state grant money for the expansion project this year.

Phillips & Associates were hired to design and construct the expansion and just recently started preparing the site.

The pharmacy will eliminate the need to drive to Monmouth, Aledo, Roseville, or Burlington, Iowa.

Future plans include a satellite pharmacy to be constructed at the clinic in Stronghurst, also a part of the Rural Health Center.

Melinda said when patients walk out of the clinic, they will be able to pick up their drugs and also get patient education. Sometimes, when you have someone pick up your drugs, the education is not given to them or passed on to the patient and it is important that drugs can be explained and given to the patient promptly, and if there are any questions, they can easily come back to ask.

Trotter General Contracting, Inc. is building the building.

Rodney said, "It is certainly an exciting moment for residents of west central Illinois and Henderson County, and certainly for members of my organization, Brent Family Pharmacy.

Brent, as a lifelong resident of Henderson County, said he has had many family members who have used the rural health care services in this organization and he commended those who take an active role in bringing this type of service to our community.

"Maintaining access to health care services to all" Brent commented as the first reason the staff and leadership of the Henderson County Rural Health Center should be commended.

"We fortunately live in a county where 60% of the residents have health care coverage, but without health care coverage, there would be no health care locally. Secondarily, we live in a country where 40 million Americans are without insurance, and ironically those are not folks on programs supported by the government but at jobs working day to day trying to support a family.

"What is unique about Henderson County Rural Health Center, is that in addition to providing high quality rural health care to insured individuals, they are providing a sliding scale to the true blue Americans that are trying to make it happen but need help with their health care."

Brent said the evidence of the success of the Rural Health Center is their expansion to the doctor and dental clinic in Stronghurst, building a much needed dental office in McDonough County and now their addition of pharmacy services in Oquawka.

"They have a lot of irons in the fire," Brent said, but commended them for their continued commitment to health care to all.

Brent noted four key factors to consider when geographically opening a pharmacy.

1. Marketplace need. The average American lives within one mile of a pharmacy. All ages procure pharmacy services, but the elderly folks procure about 2/3rds of prescription drugs in the U.S.. and those are the folks who have difficulty with transportation and difficulty with affording medications. That is one of the most viable services that we have been lacking in Henderson County and west central Illinois for quite some time. Brent said pharmacy would not be a possibility without the partnership with Henderson County Rural Health Center. Pharmacies are now facing challenges with declining margins and Brent states, in a rural setting, a significant portion of the pharmacy business needs to be obtained to be viable. The partnership he feels with the Henderson County Rural Health Center will enable them to overcome that challenge.

2-The second factor is financing including building a pharmacy and paying the considerably price to stock a pharmacy and meeting the needs of those with financial need.

3rd is transportation. We are excited to be able to provide free delivery service to anyone in the county and in the surrounding area.

4th is health care providers, which the Henderson County Rural Health Care Center is providing mental and dental care in Oquawka, and Stronghurst.

Those four things are defined as challenges for pharmacies by the state of Illinois and Brent said their partnership with the Henderson County Rural Health Center has made them able to overcome those challenges.

"What is interesting is that health care is a trillion dollar industry today but what people do not know or understand is that pharmaceutical and prescription drugs is only about 10 percent of that total two trillion dollar spend. And what happens is people who lacks the access or the affordability to buy prescription drugs, end up spending more money in the back end to pay for health care" due to complications and hospitalization. So, we are excited to be able to help provide a pharmacy in Henderson County.

Brent said about the Brent Family Pharmacy: "We will be a licensed retail business in the state of Illinois. We will lease space from the health center and provide not only services to people in Henderson County, but we will be a walk-in delivery pharmacy and provide services to any one who chooses to use us.

"We feel our location will be a convenience to local residence and feel our delivery service will be of value to local residence as well."

With that said, Brent Family Pharmacy will offer easier access, affordability, and quality service to the residents of Henderson County..

Brent is excited about the economic development side as well.

"Within a year and half, we anticipate having at least 8 full time employees and feel there will be a fairly significant increase in our tax base to the state and more importantly, locally, and lastly, every community needs health care that provides easy access and affordability."

Melinda Whiteman Director of the Henderson County Rural Health Center, Rodney Brent, pharmacist and co-owner of soon to be Brent Family Pharmacy in Oquawka, and Tom Hufnagel of Oquawka take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building scheduled to be completed in two months.