Western Sierra Medical Clinic breaks ground in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Western Sierra Medical Clinic breaks ground in Grass Valley

In the shade of tall pine trees on an undeveloped 5.3-acre lot in the Glenbrook Basin, Scott McFarland wielded a gold-painted shovel and dug into the red Grass Valley dirt where a 16,800-square-foot medical center, capable of serving 60,000 patients, will stand within a year.

“Two years of planning, I am just so excited to dig this and get this moving on,” said McFarland, chief executive officer of Western Sierra Medical Clinic, which plans to build the clinic on Old Tunnel Road just north of Brunswick Road, behind the Sutton Way Safeway store.

Western Sierra is a nonprofit community health center that began in 1989 in Nevada City as Miners Community Clinic, a solo practice by Dr. Dee Dawkins that was based in the old Miners Hospital.

Today, it is the largest outpatient clinic in Nevada County, with sites in Downieville and on Grass Valley’s Whispering Pines Lane and a mobile clinic that provides medical, dental, maternity and behavioral health services for nearly 20,000 patients in Nevada, Sierra and Yuba counties.

“The best part is that there is no ownership. There are no shareholders that you have to bring in,” McFarland said.

“We take all the profits, if we have any, and we put it back into growing health care. That enables us to put another (registered nurse) case manager in place or a dentist instead of paying shareholders.”

The largest demographic of the clinic’s patients are Medi-Cal and Medicaid recipients, though it serves many other demographics.

“We’re full specialty. We have general practice, pediatric, psychiatry, dentistry, (registered nurse) case management services and we are getting ready to add” obstetrics and gynecology in partnership with Dignity Health, which runs Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, McFarland said.

“We’re expanding our scope at this point,” he said.

Currently, the clinic leases 13,000 square feet from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, McFarland said.

The clinic is expected to log 46,000 visits in 2013 with 44,000 of those visits at Miners Family Health Center.

By 2014, McFarland expects an increase of up to at least 50,000 visits.

“We have completely outgrown the 13,000-square-feet facility,” he said.

“We’re packed up against the walls.”

With about 75 employees now, McFarland said the new clinic could allow for another 20 staff members. Annual visits are also expected to increase, up to 60,000 per year by 2015, because of plans to expand service to include all insurance plans.

“We not only see the Medi-Cal and Medicare population. We are also seeing the private market and the HMO populations because people like a single point of health care,” he said, “having all the services (in one place) so you aren’t driving back and forth in town.”

In December 2012, the medical clinic purchased 5.3 acres of undeveloped property at 844 Old Tunnel Road.

The clinic is working with a local architect, builder and project manager on plans for a 16,800-square-foot, one-story medical facility that is fully accessible according to requirements of the American with Disabilities Act and includes a dental clinic, pediatrics, maternity health, lab services, behavioral health services and a community education center.

“We’re thrilled Western Sierra Medical Clinic is going to have its own home to meet the needs of the community,” said Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller. “

Affordable health care is vitally important to our community.”

The ground-breaking ceremony, a symbolic act toward the creation of an expanded health facility, comes amid a federal government shutdown, centered largely around Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act — a fact not lost on McFarland, who declined to weigh in on the topic.

“With the health care expansion and us providing most of the Medi-Cal in this community, we are expecting to grow significantly,” McFarland said.

“Expanding into a larger footprint is completely necessary.”

The $4.87 million project is funded through the Rural Community Assistance Corporation with a USDA loan guarantee.

If all permitting procedures proceed smoothly, McFarland expects construction work to begin within two weeks on what is expected to be an 11-month construction phase aimed at a September 2014 completion.

“Affordable heath care is really important to our community,” said Keith Davies, president of the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“Two of the top five things people look at when (considering) moving to our community are our health care and our education system, whether it be a business or someone just moving here.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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