Volunteers prepare for an announcement ceremony in front of the St. Nicholas Family Clinic location in the old Paducah Kiwanis building on Broadway during the mid-1990s. Now known as KentuckyCare Medical and Pharmacy, St. Nicholas Family Clinic, has helped the working poor in the community since its founding in 1994.
Even as a local free health clinic takes steps in a new direction that promises to build on the legacy of compassionate care for the working poor, former clinic advocates reflect on how far a dream has taken the community.
KentuckyCare Medical and Pharmacy, formerly St. Nicholas Family Clinic, has come a long way from its first days offering medical services two nights a week out of a quonset hut in midtown Paducah. Now the clinic aims ever higher.
The coalition between St. Nicholas and the regional health care provider, KentuckyCare — announced earlier in this month — allows the community clinic the opportunity to reach more patients than ever. KentuckyCare will accept patients with insurance, while the St. Nicholas spirit is alive and well, still providing care for the working poor through the St. Nicholas Family Clinic Foundation.
While change is a driving factor in the health industry, St. Nicholas’ mission is one that has remained a constant over the years.
St. Nicholas Family Clinic, the culmination of organizational efforts from local woman Susan Jones, opened in 1994 in the old Paducah Kiwanis building on Broadway, said Edie Keeney, clinic executive director from 1994 to 2001. From day one, it was clear the clinic was answering a community need that had been around for some time.
“We were busy from the time we started,” Keeney said. “Word got around and we were full all the time. These were good, hardworking people that came in and deserved help, and they got to be good friends.”
Despite initially treating only 25 patients a night, the clinic saw more than 1,500 patients in its first two years, and received help from more than 250 volunteers including about 50 doctors and 70 nurses.
The clinic started out offering routine medical exams and dispensing prescription medications, and partnered with local hospitals for laboratory services, imaging referrals and emergency care. Larry Stovesand, former board member, said the volunteer drive exhibited by area health care workers helped keep the clinic viable.
“The medical community was certainly amazing with the doctors in this town busting their butts all day, then coming over to give their time,” Stovesand said. “As soon as we started, (volunteers) were lined up out the door.”
The volume of traffic forced St. Nicholas to relocate several blocks over to a 4,000-square-foot building at 1901 Kentucky Ave., the current location, in November 2000.
The new location offered staff six patient exam rooms, nurses’ station, computer room, break room, two offices and a patient area. Previously, patients had to wait outside the quonset hut no matter the weather. The space also allowed for a larger pharmaceutical area.
A decade later, St. Nicholas remains growing both in patient numbers — last year the clinic treated about 600 patients — and physical space as recent renovations re-purposed area throughout the clinic to make for a more efficient and comfortable environment.
Both Keeney and Stovesand said they aren’t sure what the future holds in the coalition with KentuckyCare, but they remained steadfast in their support of the community resource.
“I definitely have a soft spot for St. Nicholas,” Keeney said. “It’s always been one of the better things I’ve ever done and I’m very proud of the clinic. I sincerely hope this move is a step forward in patient care.”
Contact Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.