Health Facilities Get Improvement Boost

by David Gorn

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The federal government yesterday issued $722 million in renovation and construction grants to community health centers, including $122 million in grants to California facilities.

Dean Germano, CEO of Shasta Community Health Center  in Redding, said his center's $5 million capital grant announced yesterday will pay for about half of a planned $10 million building addition.

"The plans are completed, and we were waiting on a decision from HHS to see if we could do this," Germano said.

"Up here in Shasta County, we've seen tremendous growth and need here," he said. "We added 10,000 new patients a year for the past two years."

Since a large percentage of Shasta health center's patients are Medi-Cal beneficiaries or uninsured, it has been a challenge to serve so many more patients, Germano said.

"There is a much higher proportion of patients who are uninsured than we've ever seen," he said.

According to Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Affordable Care Act includes a fund of $11 billion for grants over five years, most of which is earmarked for expansion of services. About $1.5 billion of that fund goes to construction and renovation projects.

"This is the last round for that $1.5 billion, that is the rest of the construction funds," Muñoz said. She said further grants for access points will be awarded in June or July. Munoz's department released a report yesterday that outlines the ACA's positive effect on community health care. "Community health centers," she said, "are front and center in this effort."

At Shasta Community Health Center, Germano hopes to break ground on the new addition in late fall or early winter. The project is scheduled to be completed in two years -- just about in time for the expected expansion of services needed for Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion in 2014.

"Already, we're finding ourselves being asked to take on more and more patients, and it's been tough to do it all in the square footage we have," Germano said. "Now we'll have enough capacity to grow for awhile. It's being designed with the patient-centered medical home model in mind. We're trying to build the space more in keeping with that.

Germano also is trying to negotiate the launch of a family practice residency program at Shasta Community Health Center. The requirements to land that program can be met more easily by adding the new building, he said.

"[Redding] is a hub for the far north of the state, and then we have our sister clinics, as well, and for whatever reason we continue to grow," Germano said. "This money is a big help."


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