As dirt flew through the air, more than a dozen people celebrated the medical advancement that is scheduled to come to the Valley before the end of the year.
El Centro Regional Medical Center held a ground-breaking Tuesday evening for its rural health center on the corner of Fourth and Main streets.
Construction on the project has been a long time coming, hospital board Chairman Alex Calderon said.
The center is going to help “more people, faster, better, in a much nicer and state-of-the-art facility,” he said.
The clinic will be an extension of the hospital on Imperial Avenue, housing areas for diabetes, pediatrics and general medical issues. The hospital had proposed a 10,646-square-foot building with 25 exam rooms.
Because of the expanded space, the hospital may be hiring more doctors and will be able to help more patients, Calderon said.
The hospital is shooting to finish construction by November with the clinic opening by the end of the year.
Talks between the city and hospital have been going on for a long time, hospital Chief Executive Officer David Green said. The project started off as a way to bring hospital services toward the east side of the city.
The focus is on helping out the community as a whole, he said. The clinic will be in a more centralized location than the main hospital.
The project is also going to benefit the downtown area, El Centro City Manager Ruben Duran said.
The rural clinic was really the beginning of the city’s Project SHAPE to invigorate the downtown area, he said. The hope is that more people will head downtown once places like the health clinic and soon-to-be-built bus transfer terminal are in place.
Pieces of Project SHAPE, including the downtown clinic, will give downtown El Centro a different look and hopefully encourage investment in the area, he said.
The city’s redevelopment agency worked with the hospital, purchasing the land from the individuals who owned it and now leasing it to the hospital, Duran said.
“It’s an interesting project because this site is often ignored being by the railroad tracks,” he said. “But there are good things coming out of it.”