After nearly 30 years of being located at 310 E. Walnut St., connected to St. Catherine Hospital, Fry Eye Associates will be upgrading its facility at a new location closer to its surgery center.

“This facility has served us well, but we have modified it, renovated, cut holes on walls and we’re sort of done renovating,” Dr. Bill Clifford, co-owner of Fry Eye, said Thursday. “To optimize our flow for patients, we felt we needed a new space, and in particular, we needed to co-locate with our surgery center, which is on Campus Drive.”

Clifford said the new facility will be right out the back door of the surgery center at 411 N. Campus Drive, which will allow doctors and staff to walk across the alley to facilitate patient care.

The exact location of the facility will be west of the Fry Eye Surgery Center, in the 500 block of College Avenue, south of Garden City Community College.

“It makes a lot of sense in terms of efficiency we think we need to achieve in the future,” Clifford said of building a new facility. “It was just a good timing to go.”

Clifford said architectural plans are being finalized, and Lee Construction of Garden City will be constructing the proposed $3.5 million facility.

“They’re our neighbors at our building on Campus Drive, so we’re expecting they’ll do a great job out their back door,” Clifford said, adding that they would like to break ground in August.

Ideally, Clifford would like to see the new facility open next summer, or by December 2018 at the latest, he said.

“It’s not that complex of a facility, and the builders are pretty optimistic,” he said. “We’d like to be in next summer if we could be, but everything takes time.”

Clifford said co-location means a lot to him and the staff. And even though Fry Eye’s current location, which has been there since the late 1980’s, is only a mile away from the surgery center, having them closer is a plus.

Vicki Germann, a certified ophthalmic technician at Fry Eye, who has been with the organization since 1983, said what excites her the most about the new facility is that it will be right next door to the surgery center.

“That excites me not only for me, but for the patients,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot more convenient for all of our patients, and that’s really what it’s been about at Fry Eye.”

Fry Eye Associates was founded in 1978 by Dr. Luther Fry, who retired from cataract surgeries late last year, but still sees patients in the clinical setting. Fry’s son, Dr. Eric Fry, is the co-owner with Clifford.

When I started, I think Dr. Eric was 7 years old,” Germann said with a laugh. “It’s kind of wild for him to be my boss now.”

Germann has worn many hats in her 30-plus years at Fry Eye. She started working for Fry Eye when it was tucked away in the hospital, near the emergency management area as a file clerk, and has seen various changes since then.

She said equipment has gotten better, techniques have gotten better and doctors are performing surgeries in a fraction of the time they used to when she started.

Before Clifford started working at Fry Eye in 1995, Dr. Luther Fry was the only stationed doctor in the facility and there were five specialists that would come in from Denver, Wichita and Oklahoma City.

“They (the specialists) would be here, help out and do the surgeries, but then he (Dr. Luther Fry) would have to do the followup," Clifford said.

When Clifford joined in 1995, he said, he replaced three of the specialists.

With the new facility, Clifford would like to add more doctors.

“We thought from a clinic space, we needed to be able to expand our rooms to accommodate a new doctor or have more than one of us in a clinic at once,” he said. “We try to limit ourselves to having two of us in here at once, we so we’ll be ‘satelliting’ or be in the other room. At the new clinic, we can have three doctors in at once.”

A service Clifford would like to bring back with the new facility is pediatric care. Fry Eye had it previously, but hasn't for some time.

Jennifer Teeter, practice administrator, said the new facility will be larger than the current facility.

“The new facility is larger, but not astronomically larger,” she said. “We’re able to design it in such a way that it makes sense for our current technology and improves the work flow.”

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com