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Federal Grants Helps Seattle Community Clinic

Katrina Roi
05/16/2012

The Greenwood Medical Clinic was designed for two doctors. Now it has three doctors, four nurse practitioners and a busy lab all sharing the same space. And the number of patients keeps growing.

There isn't enough room for everyone. Earlier this month the clinic got some very exciting news. KUOW's Katrina Roi has more.



TRANSCRIPT

Vickie Merced manages the Greenwood Medical Clinic. It's part of a group of centers called Neighborcare Health. Last year Merced helped apply for a federal grant to build a brand new space.

A couple weeks ago she got an early morning call from Mark Secord, Neighborcare's CEO.

Merced: "He's like, How are you Vicki? I'm like, How are you, why are you calling me so early? He's like, Congratulations! We got the grant!"

The grant was five million dollars. But getting that money is just the beginning. There are still a lot of challenges.

Take the example of Tacoma's Community Health Care. David Flentge runs it. Two years ago he received $12 million from the federal government to build a new facility. But he's not sure if he'll have enough money to hire the doctors and nurses to staff it.

Flentge: "I think for all the board and staff and other supporters of our organization and our partner organizations, it creates a lot of tension."

In order to staff his clinic, he'll need to get another grant for operating expenses.

Flentge: "But unless we get the grant funding, we're probably not going to be able to do that."

He's hoping to apply for grants available through the Affordable Care Act. The government set aside $9.5 billion to help community health centers, like David's and the Greenwood Medical Clinic, cover operating expenses.

Now the Supreme Court is thinking about dismantling all or part of the act. If that happens, the grant money could disappear.

Aaron Katz is a professor of health policy at the University of Washington. He says this is a familiar problem.

Katz: "Funding programs, particularly federal funding programs, have emphasized nuts and bolts hardware and facility expansion but haven't provided sufficient funds for expansion of operating expenses, you know, hiring new staff and the like."

Katz points out that community health centers have never had it easy.They take on all patients whether they can pay or not. So funding is an ongoing challenge.

Katz: "The Community Health Center community, it is one of the most entrepreneurial, innovative parts of the American health care system, in my view. And they find ways to make do."

Joseph Sparacio is the development director at Neighborcare, which oversees Greenwood Medical Clinic. He's optimistic about their new grant as well as future funding.

Joseph: "There's a little bit of a 'If you build it, they will come.' And if they come, you'll figure out how to cover the cost."

The grant will pay for half the cost of the new facility. They'll need to raise $5 million more to complete the clinic. And they're meeting with community leaders to start raising the additional funds. For KUOW News, I'm Katrina Roi.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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