Medical office buildings and clinics seem to be sprouting up in the Tri-Cities faster than coffee stands.
Increasing demand for medical care is inspiring health care businesses, nonprofits and hospitals to build new facilities and expand existing buildings in an area officials say has become a "medical hub."
Projects under way range from adding exam rooms at existing clinics to a new dental office in Pasco.
This growth can be viewed as a bright spot for the Tri-Cities economy, officials say.
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Jeff Kossow, Kennewick's director of planning and economic development, said the quality and availability of medical care is one of the characteristics businesses use to decide whether to move into a community.
With the area's population growth and increased need for health care in the area, the medical care growth makes sense, said Liz Syer, Kennewick General Hospital's director of marketing and business development.
Syer said KGH's Physician Clinics have almost doubled the amount of providers to about 80 and have seen an increase in patient volume.
That's why its adding a wall to create two exam rooms at its Physician Clinics in a $48,600 project.
The two new exam rooms will help with the space needs, but Syer said that more expansion is planned, although hospital officials still are determining how that and the planned new hospital in the Southridge area will work.
So far this year, seven new medical building permits have been issued and there are 23 others making improvements, according to Tri-City officials. The majority of those permits are in Kennewick.
Larry Peterson, the Port of Kennewick's director of planning and development, said the Spaulding Business Park in Richland has three medical buildings under construction or planned.
Adjacent to Vista Field in Kennewick, one $5 million medical facility is planned by Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute.
The institute's new facility will be more than twice the size of its current office, space that's badly needed and will allow the institute can expand its services, which include cataract surgeries and surgeries to correct vision, Marlin Gimbel, the institute's director of professional relations, told the Herald last month.
Kadlec Regional Medical Center is working on a $4.5 million remodel of its diagnostic imaging center at the hospital, 888 Swift Blvd. in Richland.
Jason Rose, Kadlec's director of plant operations, said the work is part of an effort to consolidate services to decrease wait times and make it more efficient for patients.
The remodel also will allow Kadlec to add an interventional radiology machine that doctors hope will make services more effective, Rose said. The ultrasound area will be expanded and an older X-ray unit will be replaced with a radiographic and fluoroscopy machine, a type of X-ray machine.
Kossow said he has noticed that medical facilities are being built for more specialized services, such as the Tri-Cities Digestive Health Center, which opened in Kennewick in October, and a new $600,000 Da Vita hemo dialysis clinic, which is being built at 3208 W 19th Ave. in Kennewick.
It isn't just medical providers expanding either. Cadwell Laboratories, which manufactures medical equipment, recently received a building permit for a $1.6 million two-story building adjacent to its current facility at 909 N. Kellogg St. in Kennewick.
Expansion by Tri-Cities Community Health, formerly known as Community Health Center La Clinica, is tied to an increasing number of uninsured and underinsured.
Linda Gustafson, the health center's board president, said Tri-Cities Community Health primarily serves underinsured and uninsured patients, as well as those who are enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare. She expects to see more patients with state cuts to Medicaid.
"We will become a medical home for people who previously had medical insurance," she said.
In 2010, Gustafson said the facility saw about 106,000 total visits by patients, and 87 percent of their patients were very poor.
Its new three-story medical building at 715 W Court St. in Pasco is expected to be finished in December. The building will become home to dental services, behavioral health, chemical dependency, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, First Steps, medical records and a call center. A $7.4 million federal stimulus grant is paying for the new office.
Some of other Tri-City projects include:
* A $228,000 shell building for a Carson Kolzig Center for Autism and Therapy Massage at 4707 W 20th Ave., in Kennewick. The interior of the 6,000-square-foot building would still need to be completed, according to the building permit.
* A new $2.5 million Columbia Rheumatology clinic under construction at 6710 W. Okanogan Place in Kennewick. It will be more than 1,000 square feet larger than the clinic's current building. The clinic offers treatments for bone and joint disorders.
* A change of use from a cash advance to a chiropractic clinic called New Edge Wellness Center at 3001 W 10th Ave. in Kennewick
* A $3.2 million office building in the Spaulding Business Park for The Chaplaincy. The 12,700-square-foot building, which is under construction, will house the nonprofit's administrative offices, Community Hospice teams providing in-home services, chaplains and a community education program.