Bigger El Rio facility ready for more patients - Tucson News Now

Bigger El Rio facility ready for more patients

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A local group that's helped thousands of Tucsonans get medical care and services is getting bigger.

"I think the word for it is wow. That's the word," said Frank Valenzuela. That seems to be the word many of the patients and staff are using to describe the new El Rio Community Health Center.

Frank has been a patient at El Rio for more than 20 years and is also a board member for El Rio. " I come here because of the accessibility and it's a one stop shop. You can get your blood work done, you can get your x-rays one, you can see the obstetrician," said Valenzuela. He says the new and bigger center will be a huge asset to the community.

"I think its something our community should be proud of. I think it's a feather in the cap of downtown Tucson, for us to remain in the downtown Tucson area," added Valenzuela.

The location allows easy access to the street car. The facility is significantly bigger at 54,000 square feet, more spacious than the old center, which was 36,000 square feet.

The $14 million dollar building was made possible through a $5 million grant from the Affordable Care Act and a $5 million loan through Compass Bank.

El Rio raised the rest through community contributions. Having more space means the center is expanding staff and offering more services.

The center has 72 patient exam rooms, previously they had 48. El Rio is still in the process of hiring eight more health care providers, bringing that to a total of 25.

State of the art technology can be found in the pharmacy, radiology, and laboratories. The new center even has a kitchen to teach patients about healthy eating

El Rio is now equipped to serve 6,900 new patients a year.

"Sometimes an uninsured patient will have no options because they can't think of where to go if they have a health issue and this one is their alternative," Valenzuela said.

The extra space and design of the building is also helping the staff operate as a team more efficiently.

Nancy Johnson, the El Rio Chief Operating Officer said "We're hoping by having a larger clinic with expanded hours and same day care for patients that they'll have better opportunity to stay healthy."

BFL Construction Project Manager,Ken Sand, helped design and build the new center. " It's really exciting to see that emotional connection from staff and patients, as they come into the facility to know you had that much of an impact," said Sand.

More changes are coming. The building itself is just phase one of the project. The next step is tearing down the old El Rio center to create more parking for patients and staff. A community garden will also be added on the west end of the building. For more information on all the services available at the center click here.

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