New, larger community health facility begins construction near downtown

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The groundbreaking of anew community health facility on Congress, west of Interstate-10, will help morepatients and offer them more services to keep them healthy.

"For everyuninsured patient that we can keep out of a hospital setting, that actuallyhelps the whole community as well as hospitals.  It keeps their costsdown, as well," explained El Rio Regional Clinical Director, PennyWhitley, RN.

El Rio Community HealthCenter will add a 54,000 square foot facility to replace the current 34,000square foot one on Congress.  The current facility will remain in useuntil the new one is complete next year.  The two-story building next doorthat holds pediatrics and dental care will continue to operate after the newfacility opens.

"I think it's verycritical because people are, they don't come to work if their children are sickand they don't have a place, so they make better employees for you as acommunity," said El Rio Director of Finance Celia Hightower.

Five million dollarsfrom the Affordable Care Act and a five million dollar loan from BBVA Compasswill cover most of the cost of the $14 million facility.

"Our community'shelping us raise the rest, so that's a great, great testament to how much theycare about what we do and are willing to invest in that mission," Hightowersaid.

The new center will beable to hold eight more healthcare providers for a total of 25.  El Rioexpects to add thousands of adult patients with the expansion.  A newkitchen will allow patients to learn more about healthy eating, which will be onemore program aimed to help patients adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The Congress site isonly one of ten El Rio healthcare centers.  El Rio has 79,637patients.  Twenty-six percent of them are uninsured.

"We're trying tokeep patients healthy so they don't end up with huge medical bills,"Whitley said.  "Our costs are one-tenth of what it would cost forthem to go to an ER.  And so, every time an uninsured patient goes to anER, here in the city, they don't recoup that cost.  That cost then getsput on to people who have insurance and drives up their costs to the hospitalsto keep them going."

The facility has easyaccess to Sun Tran and will be at the western end of the modernstreetcar.  Transportation is a common hurdle for El Rio patients as theytry to keep their appointments.

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