Emily Adair
The La Grande Observer

A guided tour of the recently renovated Regional Medical Plaza in La Grande revealed several upgrades, including nurses stations, additional exam rooms and a lab.

“The building is beautiful, comfortable and efficient, which makes this that much better for the patients,” Grande Ronde Hospital Community Relations Manager Mardi Ford said.

During RMP’s grand opening held on Tuesday, numerous clinic staff members echoed pride in being able to directly benefit patients.

Nurse Coordinator Vicki Kunkle said improvement can be seen as soon as patients register.

“We have a new space for checking in patients, which includes privacy dividers,” Kunkle said. “We did a good job being confidential with our patients before, as any healthcare facility would, but sometimes you had to really focus on being on a call. You’d have to drown everything else out.”

Now, Kunkle said, staff can talk to patients or answer phone calls without worrying about other people talking or walking by.

“Now we can just listen and focus on the patients,” she said.

The women’s and children’s clinics, which had 7,565 square feet of remodeled space and 6,323 square feet of new construction, are located on the first floor of the RMP.

Dr. Monica Hill, a pediatric doctor, has a unique reason to be excited about the facility.

“I’m a new provider, and they couldn’t bring me on if it wasn’t for this expansion,” Hill said. “I actually went back to school with the plan to work here, and I finished up just as construction was completed. It was perfect timing.”

Previously, the children’s clinic had four or five providers sharing six rooms, Hill said. Now it has 14 rooms.

In all, the RMP employs 18 providers, 25 medical support staff, 31 clinic staff and one full-time lab technician. A radiology technician will be on site when orthopedic providers are seeing patients, according to a fact sheet provided at the grand opening.

Ford said the expansion of space was needed because of greater demand for providers in a growing patient base.

Additional rooms and providers means patients get into exam rooms more quickly, Hill said.

In addition to expanding staff and exam rooms, the remodeled facility includes new technology to increase efficiency.

“Instead of sending patients to the emergency room or the walk-in clinic, we can do lab work here,” Hill said.

That work includes drawing blood and taking X-ray images, both of which would have required people to go to the hospital or a separate location on top of their RMP appointments.

The women’s clinic will also include a new 3-D mammography machine, which Ford said will increase the rate of detection.

“A 2-D machine might show a mass, but you can’t really tell what it is,” Ford said.

The new machine will show a lump more definitively.

Furthermore, the entire facility has state-of-the-art technology. There are timers for the doors to lock and unlock at specific times of the day, lights go on and off as it senses people in the room and the temperature can be adjusted to specific spaces so that zone is comfortable.

“It’s a very smart building,” Ford said.

The second floor, which houses the specialty clinic, had 5,337 square feet of remodeled and 6,547 square feet of new construction space.

The specialty clinic includes general surgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology and urology, as well as independent provider Joseph Petrusek.

Specialty Clinic Receptionist Nancy Campbell said she expects patient access to improve as a result of the renovation.

“We have parking out front, the entrance has a covered area in case it rains and there’s an elevator now,” Campbell said. “That’s especially great for the orthopedics patients who may be in a wheelchair.”

The clinic, located at 710 Sunset Drive, La Grande, has cost $7,782,680 to date, according to the grand opening fact sheet.

“It’s nice to have one location to remember when you’re referred to a specialist, rather than having people scattered all over town in different places,” Campbell said.