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New Ulm Medical Center

NUMC’s Winthrop Area Clinic brings health care home

The shuttered building on East Second Street in the rural community of Winthrop used to be an old bar. Dusty liquor bottles littered the shelves and cigarette butts filled the abandoned ashtrays.

But what a difference a few years can make.

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Melanie Van Hon, physical therapist, works with Beverly Bussler at the Winthrop Area Clinic. Physical therapy is just one of the services offered at the Winthrop Area Clinic, part of New Ulm Medical Center.

That old bar is now the vibrant Winthrop Area Clinic, a satellite health care clinic of New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC). For nearly five years, the clinic has welcomed about a dozen patients a day and brought high-quality medical care to the 1,500 or so residents from Winthrop and surrounding areas. Today, there's a good chance that the doctors and nurses at the building on East Second Street know your name.

"We've made an impact in providing health care to a community that was probably struggling just to access the basics," said Brenda Nielsen, RN, clinical manager for Winthrop Area Clinic and New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC). "As rural communities shrink in size, it's not possible for all rural, small towns to provide the whole gamut of services that people need. So if you can provide these services within the community, it's a real benefit."

Small town, big services

These days, the Winthrop Area Clinic is home to four exam rooms as well as a procedure room where patients undergo minor procedures, such as getting stitches. The clinic is open five days a week and is always staffed by doctors or a nurse practitioner. Also, an orthopedic surgeon visits the clinic every other Tuesday to provide consultations and check up on patients who've had surgery.

Other services offered at the clinic include basic radiology, such as X-rays. Women can receive the full spectrum of prenatal care at the clinic — everything except for delivery, Nielsen said. The clinic is also home to general family medicine services as well as some on-site laboratory testing, such as testing for pregnancy or strep throat. It also offers urinalysis screenings, and staff is trained in collecting specimens for drug testing.

A nurse practitioner who specializes in diabetes care also visits Winthrop Area Clinic. She works specifically with diabetes patients to help them better manage the chronic disease on their own and prevent health problems.

Nielsen reported that the percentage of diabetes patients who can maintain good control over their blood sugar levels has markedly improved since the nurse practitioner began visiting the clinic.

"We're always working really hard to help diabetes patients be as healthy as possible," Neilsen said. "And this kind of access does make a difference."

New to the Winthrop Area Clinic are physical therapy services, which are now offered three days a week in the clinic's physical therapy gym.

addition to providing medical care close to home, the Winthrop Area Clinic is helping to make good health and well-being a community affair. Its staff participates in community events, health fairs, educational programs for young parents and flu shot clinics, Nielsen noted. In fact, shortly after the clinic opened its doors, staff decided to do something about the empty lot between the clinic and the Winthrop Telephone Company.

The clinic partnered with the telephone company to clean up the lot and plant trees, shrubs, flowers and a healing garden. So, like the health clinic that used to be a broken-down bar, the empty lot has been transformed into an inviting little park that's open to all.

"I think this is what people living in rural communities want to see," Nielsen said. "It's important to be on that cutting edge in building a community health care model that really keeps patients closer to home."

To find out more about the Winthrop Area Clinic, select this link.