PAWTUCKET â€” Despite a tough economy, Blackstone Valley Community Health Care broke ground Monday morning on a $6.7 million new medical complex at 33 East Ave.
The 32,000 square-foot building, to be located adjacent to BVCHC's dental clinic at 210 Main St., is scheduled to open in September, 2012. According to BVCHC officials, the three-story medical complex will create a single â€śmedical campusâ€ť where a diagnostic laboratory, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health and general medicine will be available to patients under one roof.
U.S. Congressmen Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse and David Cicilline joined state and local dignitaries, BVCHC officials and staff in the ground breaking ceremony. The new facility will replace the existing medical facility now located at 42 Park Place.
â€śWe expect to change lives by what is happening here today,â€ť said BVCHC Executive Director Raymond Lavoie. â€śOur goal is to provide optimal care and customer satisfaction. In recent years, the need for our services has outpaced the physical space where we deliver that care.â€ť
He said the facility will add 32 examination rooms, nearly doubling the capacity at Park Place.
It will also allow BVCHC to add three more doctors and seven medical support staff, thereby improving customer service and decreasing patient wait times.
Lavoie said that last year alone, BVCHC served 11,500 patients, a figure that was up 16 percent since the recession began in 2008. When the new clinic opens in the fall, BVCHC will be able to expand its services to over 16,000 patients. â€śCreating this medical complex will help us keep pace with the increase in demand,â€ť he stated.
Lavoie said BVCHC had been planning for the new building since 2008, but the project was put on hold when the state's economy soured and Medicaid became threatened. He said that the plans were â€śdusted offâ€ť the following year when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 made changes to the Section 265(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 that motivated banks to finance health facilities via the issuance of tax exempt bonds. The BVCHC will utilize a form of this financing to fund the construction of the new facility.
The project will also benefit from $500,000 in Congressional appropriations that Senators Reed and Whitehouse secured in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act. These funds will help equip the exam rooms with the latest technology, medical equipment and furnishings which will complement the existing electronic health record system that BVCHC currently employs.
Edward Rowse Architects of Providence is the project architect and Case Construction Company of East Providence will serve as general contractor, Lavoie added.
Sen. Jack Reed said the new facility will be a â€śone-stop shopâ€ť for health care services for many local residents. It will help keep patients healthier and reduce costs for taxpayers by preventing unnecessary emergency room visits.â€ť He added, â€śIf we don't empower the community health centers, then places like this can't meet the challenges of health care reform in 2014.â€ť
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the new facility will be â€śwonderful for Pawtucket and Central Falls,â€ť especially at a time when so many Rhode Islanders lack health insurance. However, more than that, he said it will serve as a â€śa new modelâ€ť of community health care that utilizes the electronic health record system and enables patients to get affordable, quality care without going to a hospital emergency room.
Rep. David Cicilline said that community health care centers like this one, which are patient-centered models and focus on wellness and dental needs are â€śleading the way, not only in Rhode Island, but in the U.S.â€ť He praised Lavoie and the BVCHC board of directors for their initiative in getting the project off the ground and said that he, along with the rest of the Congressional delegation, would continue to be an advocate for community health care centers â€śevery way we can.â€ť
Speakers also included Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, RI Health Center Association President and CEO Jane Hayward, BVCHC Medical Director Jerry Fingerut, M.D., and Women's Care CEO Pablo Rodriguez, M.D.
It was noted that BVCHC's medical building in Central Falls at 9 Chestnut St. will remain open, and $100,000 in improvements will be made to it this summer, including new offices and a handicap access ramp.