By SCOTT AUST
Braving a spritz of rain and the first chilly blast of fall, several dozen people turned out Monday afternoon to support the groundbreaking for Fry Eye Associates new eye care clinic.
Located at 502 College Drive just south of the Garden City Community College campus, the new facility will be across the alley from the Fry Eye Surgery Center located at 411 N. Campus Drive. The goal is to complete the project by the latter part of 2018.
Dr. Luther Fry, who founded Fry Eye Associates in 1978, said though the practice’s present location at 310 E. Walnut St. connected to St. Catherine Hospital has served well, the clinic is running out of room.
“As technology improves, the number of new advanced instruments we have also increases. Our new location will provide us with additional room, particularly important as we are also recruiting an additional eye surgeon,” Fry said.
The new location will also improve patient parking and provide a more convenient access for out of town patients due to the proximity to the bypass and Highway 50/400, he said.
“Being right next to our Surgery Center will also be much more convenient for both us and our patients,” Fry said.
The 11,322 square foot facility will house additional examination rooms and an improved workflow to facilitate the recruitment of another ophthalmologist.
Dr. Bill Clifford, a co-owner of Fry Eye along with Dr. Eric Fry, said the new building will only be about 15 percent larger, but it will be a more efficient space for the surgeons, optometrist Dr. Gloria Hopkins and staff.
“It works better, flows better, and just makes sense for the way we function now compared to the way Dr. Fry probably functioned 30 years ago,” Clifford said.
The number of exam rooms will increase to 15, up from 12, and will include dedicated areas for staff to have their own work spaces.
“For us physician’s it’s going to be great. We just feel like walking across the alley is going to be way more efficient,” Clifford said. “We see patients from so far away – six states in fact – and to accommodate their needs and limit the number of visits, it would be nice to be able to see them, operate on them, see them again and send them on their way all within the confines of the space over there on Campus.”
Clifford hopes patients also find the location beneficial. As an example of improved efficiency, Clifford noted that it may be possible to do some of the preliminary steps before laser cataract eye surgery, such as making incisions and softening the cataract, could be done at the clinic first before sending the patient to the surgery center for the intraocular removal and implant of a new lens.
“We’re trying to think ahead about how we might function 10 to 15 years down the road. Being co-located certainly lends itself to that kind of thinking,” Clifford said.
Need for another hand
Clifford said Fry Eye desperately needs another doctor, pointing out that he and Dr. Eric Fry have been handling 30 to 50 cases per week, so hopes are high that the new, modern facility will aid in recruitment.
“Our first recruit is coming out in November so hopefully they’ll be impressed with the hole at least,” Clifford quipped.
Clifford thanked contractor Rean Wessels and Lee Construction; local architect Gibson, Mancini, Carmichael and Nelson; designer Marasco Associates of Denver, who designed Dr. Fry’s original office and the surgery center and has done hundreds of eye projects across the country; and Rich Harp at Commerce Bank who put together an excellent financing package, for their work on the project.
Fry Eye Associates is pleased to continue its investment in the community. Clifford said Garden City is the “hub” of the practice, which also offers satellite services to Lamar, Colo., Liberal and Colby, and used to have satellites in Oakley and Goodland. With the addition of another doctor or two, Clifford said Fry Eye may be able to pick up those locations again.
Still, he said, you can’t beat the delivery of the best level of care right here at home.
“Right now, we have the best eye surgery facility between Kansas City and Denver,” Clifford said. “Folks in Wichita might dispute that, but I’d put our staff up against anyone. This is our home, this is our home base and we’re making a big commitment to stay in Garden City for decades.”