Clayton to reopen main health office in May after two-year renovation

A worker paints trim at Clayton County’s renovated health department, which will reopen to the public in May after closing in February 2018 because of mold and water damage. PHOTO: LEON STAFFORD

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A worker paints trim at Clayton County’s renovated health department, which will reopen to the public in May after closing in February 2018 because of mold and water damage. PHOTO: LEON STAFFORD

Clayton leaders say they plan to reopen the county’s main health department in May, a little more than two years after mold and water leaks forced the facility’s closure.

The closing of the department sent residents scrambling to nearby Fayette and Henry for their healthcare needs, such a pre-natal advice, flu shots and breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Officials with the south metro community on Wednesday conducted a tour of the 100,000-square-foot Battlecreek Road building to unveil the renovations under way, including a new $1.5 million roof, an expanded waiting area that can accommodate 200 people and a sound-insulated room for children with sensory issues.

The update also includes dedicating a portion of the facility to patients with airborne illnesses. That portion of the facility has its own ventilation system to keep the air from recirculating back into the building.

“In my native language, we say, ‘When God wants to put glory to a rich man’s house, he sets fire to it,’ ” Clayton Health District Interim Director Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo, who is Nigerian, said during the tour. “I think that’s what happened here. This mold was us really having an opportunity to make this a health department of the future.”

Bringing the building back online is important to the county. Federal funding for healthcare is often tied to patient counts, especially with programs such as Medicare and Women Infants and Children or WIC, and Clayton lost dollars when patients crossed county lines for help, Obasanjo said. The county’s clientele dropped from a total of about 3,000 people to around 700.

It also brings most county healthcare services back under one roof. The services were spread across four facilities after the main building closed, forcing patients to visit multiple locations to have their healthcare needs met.

Clayton closed the building in February 2018 after health department staff went into a room that had been closed for a month and found pervasive mold, Obasanjo said.

“We immediately shut it down,” said Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner, who attended the tour. “It’s about the safety and the welfare of the employees and the citizens.”

Remediation included getting rid of drywall, wiping down every surface and replacing equipment, officials said. Parts of the building had to be taken down to the studs.

“Our citizens are worth it,” Turner said. “They’re taxpayers and their money is going in to help renovate this and we want to provide a state-of-the-art facility for them.”

The renovations include the use of anti-fungal paint throughout the building, installing anti-bacterial countertops and setting up a kid's activity room. Expectant mothers can expect private breast feeding areas while those looking to learn to cook can take classes in the department's expanded cooking facilities.

In addition, the department also hopes to interest a pharmacy in setting up shop in the building to make it easier for patients to fill prescriptions on site.

“Our hope is not only can we serve you, but we can serve you in a better way,” District Operations Director Keisha Dixon said.