Medical center up and running

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer May 16, 2012 01:25 pm

The La Grande Medical Center, including offices for Interpath Laboratory, opened for business April 2. An open house is slated 4 to 7 p.m. June 1.
The La Grande Medical Center, including offices for Interpath Laboratory, opened for business April 2. An open house is slated 4 to 7 p.m. June 1.

Construction of La Grande’s newest medical clinic is complete at the corner of Fourth Street and Jefferson Avenue downtown, and the doctors practicing there say they love the results.

The La Grande Medical Center, built by a group of family practitioners collectively called Independent Medical Providers, opened April 2, with a grand opening celebration scheduled for June 1. The facility houses four medical practices, employs about a dozen people, and was built at cost of $1.1 million.

“We started with smaller plans and it grew,” said Doctor John Schaefer. “I love it. It’s a nice size and has lots of room, and it’s better for our patients.”

Doctors Bryan Conklin, Susan Jensen and John Schaefer together form Independent Medical Providers, the group that owns the newly built La Grande Medical Center at Fourth Street and Jefferson Avenue.
Doctors Bryan Conklin, Susan Jensen and John Schaefer together form Independent Medical Providers, the group that owns the newly built La Grande Medical Center at Fourth Street and Jefferson Avenue.
 

Schaefer, Doctor Susan Jensen and Doctor Bryan Conklin are owners of the new building. A fourth physician, Ellen Schoenfelder, has her office there though she is not a member of the financial group. 

All the physicians formerly had their offices in the KAP building on Sunset Drive near Grande Ronde Hospital, but that arrangement became less favorable over time. With the lease running out, the doctors decided a change was in order. 

“We needed to have a stable place to stay. None of us were planning to leave the community anytime soon,” Conklin said.

The doctors formed Independent Medical Providers, purchased the lot, and last spring announced plans to build the clinic. The group received $75,000 from the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency for street improvements, but otherwise is paying for the clinic on its own. 

The construction contract went to local builder Mike Becker, who started work after a groundbreaking ceremony last August. Becker built a facility that includes a spacious lobby and reception area, numerous offices, 14 exam rooms, and ample storage space. Also housed in the building is the La Grande branch of Interpath Laboratory, the Pendleton-based company that provides medical lab testing throughout the region.

Jensen said that on the whole the new facility is a slice of heaven compared to the former location.

“In the old place the ventilation was such that had trouble with odors, but now we have a new system that filters the air out. Another thing I like is that every single room is insulated against noise. For privacy, that works out really well,” she said.

The clinic is managed by Penny Tandy and, in addition to the physicians, employs four people on the nursing staff, two receptionists, and a referral coordinator. Tandy said the pace of business has been brisk since the clinic opened its doors.

“We’ve brought in a lot of new patients. We’re a family practice so we see everybody from newborns on up to geriatrics,” she said. She said all the doctors except Conklin are accepting new patients.

Tandy said that in the near future the doctors plan to open an urgent care clinic, though details are still being worked out. She said after-hours urgent care may begin this September.

Independent Medical providers and Interpath Laboratory plan their clinic open house from 4 to 7 p.m. June 1. The public is     invited.