Samaritan commissioners approve clinic remodel

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MOSES LAKE — Samaritan Healthcare commissioners approved spending about $6.9 million in 2019 to remodel Samaritan Clinic. Hospital officials said the remodeling is required to accommodate a number of new doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who will be joining the clinic staff next year.

Estimated project cost for 2019 was $6,946,000. That pays for the first two phases of the project, with a third phase planned for 2020. Commissioner Alan White asked if there was potential for savings in that estimate.

Joe Kunkel, the consultant working with the hospital district, said there are some potential savings. “If there’s money to be saved, we’re going to get it.”

Kunkel said the project will add 33 exam rooms, if all three phases are completed, and waiting room space for the new practitioners. Any administrators in the building will be moved out and the space converted to medical practitioner offices and exam space.

Chief financial officer Alex Town said the hospital district has to have room not only for the new medical providers, but for others it’s still recruiting. That followed a question from commissioner Joe Akers about the feasibility of the project.

Commissioners and district officials have been talking about upgrades and remodeling for more than a year, Akers said. Part of the first floor was remodeled last year and the heating-cooling system was upgraded. The architects in charge of that project were skeptical about a whole clinic remodel, Akers said.

“It was always said it’s not a good remodel. It’s not an efficient use of our finances to go in and remodel this facility.” Architects on the first-floor remodeling project said the clinic’s construction made it difficult to rework it effectively. “Are we really investing our money where it should be going, as far as the facility?” Akers asked if the new layout would fulfill the expectations of medical practitioners and patients. “Is it going to be accepted that this is a good upgrade? Or are we just making 33 new rooms?”

“We’re making it more efficient because we’re basically gutting those (medical) suites,” Kunkel said. Chief financial officer Alex Town said the current configuration wouldn’t work for what hospital officials want to do. “It’s not designed right. So what we’re doing is involving the providers in the discussion, so they can say what they like and what they don’t like, given the constraints that we have.”

“I know we need space,” Akers said. But in 2017 commissioners were getting different advice, and the two are hard to reconcile, he said.

The ultimate goal, Town said, is to provide all medical services in one location. But in the meantime, medical professionals recruited by the hospital district need a place to practice. Kunkel said district officials looked around Moses Lake for suitable space, but couldn’t find any.

District officials are recruiting specialists to join the staff, Town said, and the current clinic could end up being attractive space for specialist practices.

Construction of the first phase is projected to begin in May 2019, finishing in August. The second phase would begin in September, with completion in December.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at

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