After three years of planning, including seven months of construction, El Centro has a new site for health care thanks to the Centralized Outpatient Clinic, which celebrated its grand opening Tuesday.
The clinic, located on Fourth and Main streets, is the first construction ECRMC has done outside its main facility since 1953 and is expected to receive about 4,000 patients every month.
The project was funded by ECRMC with help of the city’s Redevelopment Agency, according to ECRMC Director of Marketing and Communications Kathleen Pipkin.
Patients need hope, love and compassion, and El Centro Regional provides these, said Salvation Army Capt. Jerry Esqueda, moments before leading the prayer of dozens of state, city and county officials who gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The ceremony was then led by ECRMC Chief Executive Officer David Green, who thanked El Centro officials for contributing toward the fruition of the $4.2 million project.
“I’d like to thank all of them,” said Green during his speech, adding “this is the beginning of the future.”
The new facility will allow physicians to access patients easier and offer additional space for patients, said Green moments before noting the Imperial Valley suffers from a shortage of primary care physicians.
El Centro Mayor Sedalia Sanders followed.
“The outpatient clinic is certainly going to be an anchor” for the downtown area, said Sanders. With this infusion of public dollars the city will “demonstrate to the private sector that investing in El Centro is a win-win.”
And many downtown business owners and employees agree in the potential beneficial impact of the new clinic.
“It is positive,” said Aida Leon. Leon owns Divinos Pensamientos, located about three blocks from the clinic.
The clinic brings the opportunity for the city to evolve, Leon said. There will also be the opportunity of new jobs in addition to the extra foot and vehicular traffic the clinic will bring to the area, she said.
“Right now downtown is dead,” Leon said, adding many people are not aware of what the stores downtown have to offer. Perhaps while people wait for their medical appointment or after visiting someone in the clinic they may walk to downtown to buy, she said.
Other business owners are more skeptical. Such is the case of Mike Nicholas, owner of Mike Nicholas Photography.
“I think the clinic is a great idea,” said Nicholas, but “I don’t see it really making much of a difference.” Unlike Leon, Nicholas doesn’t think many people are going to walk from the clinic to downtown. “I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Whether downtown commerce will benefit greatly or minimally from the clinic is yet to be determined.
The clinic is still waiting for the state to inspect the facility, said ECRMC Assistant Administrator Charlie Rhoades, and though it may happen sooner, it’s estimated that the clinic will start receiving patients in mid-February.
And when that happens, “patients’ comfort is going to improve greatly,” according to Rhoades.
Wait times and access to care is going to improve, he said, noting also that the facility will have full electronic clinical records.
The 10,554-square-feet facility, developed by Erickson-Hall, Holt Group/Architects and MW Architects, includes 27 examination rooms, one classroom, four triage rooms and two rooms in which to draw blood, according to a press statement.
The landscaping in front of the clinic needs minimal amounts of water, while the building in general was built to be as “eco-friendly as possible,” said construction manager Jim Fisher.
And in the end, “(it) turned out to be a beautiful facility,” he said.