Only two desks remain in Kelly Hughes’s office, but the clinic downstairs is lined with boxes and still functioning.
“It’s pretty bare-bones around here,” said Hughes, secretary for the Columbia/Boone County Health Department.
The Howard Building at 600 E. Broadway has housed the health department since its construction in 1933. At that time the building was City Hall.
“It started out as a small operation with one physician and one nurse,” said Mary Martin, public health manager.
The health department used to be on the first floor, and the basement where it’s currently located used to be a garage.
The new building is located at 1005 W. Worley St., the former location of Nowell’s Grocery. The new location has more than double the square footage of the current location at 30,000 square feet for the clinic alone. Even with a sizeable amount of the moving done, the conditions are still tight.
Some of the duties of the health department include the regulation of environmental health, overseeing animal control, providing immunizations and HIV testing and administering the Women’s, Infants and Children program. The department has 51 permanent full-time employees and six full-time employees who work animal control.
“There’s a lot of doubling and tripling up,” said Martin, pointing to single offices with multiple workers.
“We always joked that everybody had radar,” said Martin, referring to maneuvering in the compact and often crowded areas.
Another side to the crowded conditions is the privacy that’s often taken for granted in medical offices. The current clinic has a great deal of doors that have been put up to add to the privacy, which was previously lacking. The new clinic will not have such problems with its spacious facility.
“The move is going to be more conducive to our practices ... because you’re talking to people about diseases and how they may have contracted them,” Martin said.