Another 3,000 can receive treatment; more dentists, too
PETALUMA — When the Petaluma Health Center opened the doors to its brand new, 52,000-square-foot location this June, an immediate impact was felt by both staff and patients working in and getting treatment at the federally qualified health center.
The new medical center, at 1179 North McDowell Blvd., more than tripled the size of its previous location on Southpoint Boulevard, thus enabling the safety-net center to treat a constantly increasing number of patients.
“We immediately had the ability to care for 3,000 more patients when we opened. We were turning away hundreds of new patients each month before we moved, and now we are able to meet the current demand for services,” said Holly Butler, director of community relations for the center.
Like federally qualified health centers throughout the country, the Petaluma Health Center has seen its patient load vastly increase over the past several years. The federal health care overhaul of 2010 by President Obama will deliver some 32 million Americans into the health care system; in Sonoma County, about 45,000 new patients are expected, and the region’s health centers are expected to absorb a great deal of the previously uninsured and continually underinsured.
A former office building built in 1985, the new center was made possible with $8.9 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. It was one of 85 federally qualified health centers nationally to receive stimulus monies. Additionally, UnitedHealthcare, as part of a 20-year, $200 million California Health Care Investment Program, provided support by way of a $620,000 grant and by purchasing $5.87 million of the project’s tax-exempt bonds, which were backed by Cal-Mortgage, a division of the Office of Statewide Health and Planning Development. Another $500,000 was procured by U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, bringing the total project cost to more than $16 million.
Kaiser Permanente helped the center secure its stimulus dollars with a $20,000 grant. But it also shared expertise in helping the center identify what was included in total project costs — permit fees, moving expense, furniture and other technical matters — that ultimately helped the center meet all necessary requirements for the federal funding.
The center is expecting to treat roughly 20,000 patients within the next few years compared to the 18,000 patients from Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Cotati it already serves.
“We also grew from one dentist to four, allowing us to provide dental services to about 4,000 of our 18,000 patients each year,” Ms. Butler said. At the old center, there was one dental room — now there are nine. The new center also has a total of 42 medical examination rooms, a separate OB/GYN section and an area for behavioral health and features a demonstration kitchen. Petaluma Bounty, a local nonprofit, also distributes fresh produce at the center to help promote more healthful eating for the center’s patients.
Construction was carried out by Petaluma-based Midstate Construction. It was the largest building project in Petaluma this year, employing an average of 30 to 50 people with more than three quarters of subcontractors and suppliers from the North Bay, according to Building Project Manager Daryl Johnson. The construction team recycled nearly 90 percent of demolished materials and the building we be a certified Energy Star rated facility.
“We are grateful for all the hard work and expertise of DES Architects & Engineers, Midstate Construction, our subcontractors and our building project manager Daryl Johnson,” Ms. Bulter said.
“The Petaluma Health Center project utilized all of my experience including commercial real estate development, hospital/medical construction and building trade skills,” Mr.Johnson said. “Working with PHC’s senior management has made this the most rewarding project to design, permit, and construct.”
The older center on Southpoint Boulevard was about 15,000 square feet. The new, larger center allows for patients and staff to work and be treated far more comfortably than in the past, according to Ms. Butler.
“Patients and staff feel dignified and respected in the new building, with new, state-of-the art equipment and enough space to work without bumping into each other,” Ms. Butler said. “Our patients are telling us their experience with us is phenomenal now, with shorter waiting and the ability to see more clinical staff during each visit, and receiving what they need between visits more quickly.”
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