Good Samaritan Clinic planning to move out of downtown Fort Smith

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,428 views 

The Good Samaritan Clinic in Fort Smith is working to raise $500,000 to fund a move to a bigger clinic and service more patients. The move out of downtown Fort Smith would also support efforts by city officials to reduce homeless numbers in the downtown area.

The Good Samaritan Clinic opened in its location at 615 N. B St. 20 years ago, the same year it obtained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. It’s set to move to a new facility at 1400 S. Zero St. next summer, said Executive Director Patti Kimbrough.

“About a year ago, we started thinking about relocating. We’ve just run out of room,” Kimbrough said.

The clinic was started in 2003 under the direction of Dr. Kemal Kutait, a retired family practitioner, and Ramona Roberts, a real estate professional, in a former law office building provided by St. John’s Episcopal Church. Its beginnings came when a local group of concerned individuals recognized that the Fort Smith area was in need of affordable and quality medical care for those who were underinsured or uninsured.

Though the board of directors is grateful for the generosity of St. John’s, it realized the growing number of patients needing to be served as well as the growing use of the clinic as key place for students with Arkansas College of Health Education and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith’s BSN program meant the clinic needed a new facility that was intended for use as a medical clinic.

“We saw 6,200 patients last year. We’ve grown so much,” Kimbrough said. “And our partnerships with ACHE and UAFS nursing school are allowing us to train future medical professionals in our community.”

The board was considering property on Wheeler Avenue and was working on the idea that they would need to raise about $2.1 million for the move. Then Mercy Fort Smith stepped up. In April, Mercy announced it would be building a new clinic on Towson Avenue and would donate its clinic at 1400 S. Zero St. to the Good Samaritan Clinic.

Though the clinic does add slightly more square footage for the Good Samaritan operation, the big bonus is that it is laid out like a medical clinic and will increase the amount of exam rooms from four to 10.

The $500,000 fundraising drive the clinic is in the midst of is to do some minor remodeling and to purchase furniture and medical equipment. The minor renovations will include adding security to the front reception area, taking a sink out of one of the exam rooms, and expanding the nurses station. The new space also will allow the clinic to take x-rays and do its own phlebotomy lab work, Kimbrough said.

Over the years, the clinic has grown from a handful of patients a day to an average of nearly 500 patient visits per month, according to its website. Along with the number of patients, the services offered has expanded to now offering dental, chiropractic, counseling and optical in addition to traditional medical care, education and prevention, and staffing has grown from three full-time positions to a dedicated team of six full-time and two part-time employees, plus numerous volunteers, the website states. Kimbrough said the clinic has about 100 active volunteers.

Even with a strict application and screening process, the clinic now has over 15,000 patients within its database. Though patients seen had been averaging about 5,000 a year, jobs and insurance lost during the COVID-19 pandemic lead to an increase in patients in the past few years. The clinic’s annual expenses of around $500,000 topped out at $542,000 last year, Kimbrough said.

“The clinic definitely saw a surge in patients,” she said. “Fortunately, we got a bequest at the end of the year that let us end the year strong.”

The clinic is a gold standard member of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. It also works closely with both Baptist Health Fort Smith and Mercy-Fort Smith.