Clinic consultation

Samaritan announces the arrival of a new clinic at Sweet Home

By Benny Westcott
From the new era / Local Lebanon

Samaritan Health Services held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday morning August 29 to celebrate the start of construction on a 17,000 square foot building at 1289 49th Ave. which will house Samaritan’s new Sweet Home family practice clinic, as well as a new urgent care department and pharmacy.

The building is expected to be completed by fall 2023 and will include 18 family medicine exam rooms, seven urgent care exam rooms, a laboratory, a pharmacy with drive-thru and a helipad.

“We have more than doubled our capacity in terms of square footage to support the community,” said Marty Cahill, CEO of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital. “The clinic will be equipped with the latest technologies, offering our patients telehealth possibilities to consult specialists. We are delighted that the facility serves as a model for other clinics in the Samaritan system.

“This is our visionary clinic,” he continued. “It’s the one we’re going to use to start building the mood around primary care and emergency clinics across the system as we expand our services.”

He said Samaritan worked with the Sweet Home City Council to determine the city’s health care needs and how to meet them.

Samaritan also approached the WesternU College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest in Lebanon to survey the folks at Sweet Home.

“We’re looking at it and we think we know what the community needs,” Cahill said. “But it’s always helpful to go back and ask the community. And we did. When we put it all together on this campus, you will see that we have met the five needs that the Town of Sweet Home and City Council have identified as the five initiatives around healthcare in 2020.”

He drew attention to the helipad function of the campus.

“Having [one] here will help the lumber industry and help people who have an accident or injury between here and Hoodoo,” he said.

Moran milk

Samaritan Health Services Chairman of the Board, Milt Moran, certainly knows a lot about the timber industry himself as President of Cascade Timber Consulting.

“We knew we had to do something here at Sweet Home to attract more people and provide them with the care they need,” he said of the new clinic. “We know this will make Sweet Home a better place to live.”

“Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District has been the primary caregiver for many people at Sweet Home,” he added. “They did a great job, and they still do a great job, but it’s just not sustainable.

“Samaritan has stepped up, our board has grown stronger, and our community has grown stronger. It’s a great project. I especially want to thank Sweet Home for allowing us to do what we do here. I think it’s a great opportunity, and I’m super excited to see this thing go up.

Mayor Greg Mahler said, “This day would not have come to fruition without the hard work, endless hours and dedication of Samaritan Health. Sweet Home is fortunate to have such a great partner in Samaritan Health for all of our medical needs.

He then selected a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Without continual growth and progress, words such as improvement, achievement, and success are meaningless.”

“It will be a great addition to our great city. I am proud of what we have accomplished. This is just the beginning of many great things to come for the citizens of our community,” he said.

Vanessa Cornwall, director of constituent services for Rep. Peter DeFazio, delivered a message from the congressman, who was unable to attend because he was traveling out of state.

“I am proud to have helped secure funding in the appropriations bill passed by the House for the construction of Sweet Home Clinic and Urgent Care,” DeFazio said. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to include it in the final bill. Throughout my career, I have consistently pushed for expanded health care coverage in my district, even fighting at one point to reclassify some urban hospitals as rural hospitals, so they could qualify for reimbursement increased federal.

“No one should have to walk long distances, rearrange their day and work schedule, or rush to find daycare for basic care,” he added. “Expanding critical care to nearly 11,000 Sweet Home residents, including those uninsured or underinsured, will fill a need for services in East Linn County. Southwestern Oregon has a strong and resilient healthcare workforce, but it’s important that we continue to increase the number of care sites to maintain educational and residential opportunities, as well as care comprehensive health care for all.

Dr Juliette Asuncion

Dr. Juliette Asuncion, Family Physician at Sweet Home Family Medicine and Samaritan Primary Care Medical Director for Lebanon, Sweet Home and Brownsville, spoke enthusiastically about the improvements to come, especially her growth.

“The Sweet Home Family Medicine team is so excited to finally have an upgrade,” she said. “While we are very grateful for our current space, which has a lot of history and charm, we look forward to being able to care for our patients with a new state-of-the-art facility.

“Patient care and patient experience have always been at the forefront of the design meetings for the new clinic,” she continued. “Space has been one of the major limiting factors in the ability to provide adequate care to our ever-growing patient population. With this new building, we will have larger and more standardized exam rooms. They will be more accessible to wheelchairs and their layout has been designed to facilitate patient care, even the examination tables will better accommodate patients with reduced mobility or those with balance problems.

Asuncion then discussed increasing recruiting and remote capabilities.

“With this new facility, we will finally be able to recruit more clinicians into our practice,” she said, “and eventually schedule a rotating remote clinic for Samaritan specialists to see our patients a few times a year.

“As we know, the pandemic has pushed us to be more innovative in how we provide care to our patients,” she continued. “One of the tools we use is telemedicine. However, not everyone has access to the internet or a video-enabled device. We therefore plan to provide our patients with telemedicine rooms equipped with this technology in order to be able to program to connect with the specialty. There is so much potential for this type of collaborative care.

“We are also delighted to be able to provide an urgent care clinic,” Asuncion noted. “We know that medical issues can arise outside of regular clinic and walk-in clinic hours. We look forward to recruiting more clinicians to fill this need in our community.

People mingle ahead of Samaritan Health Services’ groundbreaking ceremony for a new Sweet Home family practice clinic on the morning of August 29.

“Finally, we are very excited to bring Samaritan Pharmacy services to Sweet Home,” she said. “We have all felt the burden of the closure of one of our pharmacies in town. This has resulted in longer wait times for refills or refills of prescriptions, or the transfer of medications outside of Sweet Home. We look forward to working with our pharmacists to provide this service and improve access.

“There is so much potential for this new space and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring more services to the Sweet Home community,” she concluded.

Samaritan Health Services President and CEO Doug Boysen reflected on the past and looked to the future.

“The past two and a half years have been difficult in the health care field,” he said. “It’s been difficult for all of us.”

However, he noted, “I am so grateful that we are able to move forward with this project and meet these needs. [outlined by residents of the city]. I grew up in a rural town in Iowa that was half the size of Sweet Home. I understand how important a project like this is for a rural community. We will now have a state-of-the-art space that will allow us to improve access to needed services in the community.

“It’s a special group here at Sweet Home,” he said of Sweet Home’s family medicine staff. “Their culture is great. They work well together. They are world class. And now they will finally be in a world-class facility.

Boysen pointed out that supporters have donated $1.5 million to date for the project, and Samaritan has persisted despite the difficulties.

“It would have been very easy to pause on this project, believe me,” he said, citing the pandemic, as well as rising supply chain costs, inflation and the costs of construction. “But our board of directors did not once hesitate on this project.”