Cascade, Skagit Valley create ‘Health Alliance’

SMOKEY POINT — For Rosemary Waterman, a medical records specialist, it will mean being able to look up files on a computer rather than wading through stacks of paperwork.

For Chasity White, it will mean finally being able to work with a fully digital x-ray machine, and for White’s fellow certified medical assistant, Tannis Chamberlain, it will mean working in an office that doesn’t also serve as an office supplies storage area for an already overcrowded facility.

“There’s no room for us to expand,” Chamberlain said. “All our space is taken up by something.”

For them, for other staff members and for the roughly 31,000 patients a year who currently go to the Cascade Valley Smokey Point Clinic, “it” is the new Cascade Skagit Health Alliance which will mean not only a bigger building in a new location, but also expanded services and more advanced care, according to Clark Jones, chief executive officer of the Cascade Valley Hospital and Clinics.

Jones explained that Cascade Valley has built on its pre-existing partnership with the Skagit Valley Hospital, which already provides outpatient chemotherapy services for the Cascade Valley Hospital, to create the new entity called the Cascade Skagit Health Alliance. The Cascade Valley Smokey Point Clinic, which has been expanded several times during its 17 years and is currently located at 16410 Smokey Point Blvd., will eventually be closed to make way for the Cascade Skagit Health Alliance’s two-story, 42,000-square-foot facility at 3823 172nd St. NE, on a four-acre property that Cascade Valley has owned for several years.

“It’s built to house 24 primary care providers and six urgent care physicians,” Jones said. “We identified cardiology, dermatology and urology as our most-needed specialties, but we couldn’t offer those full-time here in Arlington, which is where Skagit Valley comes in. Those specialists will be able to come to town on a part-time basis. Skagit Valley will eventually move its cancer care clinic to the new facility as well, which will free up more inpatient beds over at Cascade Valley Hospital.”

The Cascade Skagit Health Alliance aims to open shortly after the start of 2012 with seven family practitioners, one pediatrician and nine mid-level providers, including physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Its $8 million facility is also set to include occupational medicine services, a retail pharmacy and a full-fledged laboratory, an upgrade from the Cascade Valley Smokey Point Clinic’s current cramped lab space.

“A bigger space will give us a better work flow, which will allow us to test our patients more efficiently,” said Becca Cofer, a medical assistant at the current clinic.

Bev Jacobs, manager of the Cascade Valley Smokey Point Clinic, likewise looks forward to increasing from 9,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet for primary care and walk-ins, with 17 exam rooms at the current clinic versus 58 primary care and 10 walk-in rooms at the new facility. The Cascade Skagit Health Alliance will also be open seven days a week, as opposed to the Cascade Valley Smokey Point Clinic’s six days a week.

The official groundbreaking for construction of the new facility is set for March 9. Synergy Construction of Woodinville secured the bid for just under $8 million. While Jones enjoyed the general contractor/construction manager process by which Cascade Valley Hospital was renovated and expanded, that process was unavailable this time because the Cascade Skagit Health Alliance facility is too small to qualify for it.

Given all the benefits this arrangement yields for Cascade Valley, how does Skagit Valley benefit?

“Our patients are able to see Skagit Valley’s specialists locally, but for more sophisticated or advanced care, they’ll still need to be referred to other facilities, such as Skagit Valley Hospital,” Jones said. “Our patients get great care, and we continue to develop a win/win relationship with Skagit Valley.”

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