An estimated 300 people gathered in the warm sun Friday afternoon to dedicate the new Nipomo clinic that Community Health Centers of the Central Coast will open for business next week.
Invited guests, including current and former board members and medical staff, filled the courtyard in front of the 28,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility for the hour-long ceremony.
Afterward, the crowd moved inside the lobby, called the Galleria, where food and drinks were served and a silent auction was conducted to benefit the CHC Foundation.
The general public will get a chance to see inside the clinic during an open house today and Sunday.
“We’re really developing a concept of supercenters, open seven days a week up to 12 hours a day,” Ron Castle, chief executive officer, said before the ceremony began.
“This is two-thirds larger than our current facility, which has become really obsolete,” he said. “The whole flow, the whole layout, is really old school.
“Here, we’ll be able to see more patients, and see them faster and more efficiently,” he continued. “We’re adding full-time pediatric, ob/gyn and internal medicine physicians, and we’re expanding our dental services.
“We have 40 exam rooms compared to 12 in the old building,” he added. “We’re also adding 40 additional staff members.”
Castle recalled how CHC got its humble start in the late 1970s as San Luis Obispo County’s free clinic for migrant farm workers located in a converted house in Olde Towne Nipomo.
Dr. James Dorr, the clinic’s first medical director, also remembered that first location, where the kitchen was the “dental suite,” the garage housed the lab and the front porch had been enclosed to serve as the waiting room.
Medications were dispensed from a closet with Dutch doors that was so small “you had to step outside it to take a breath,” he said.
Three bedrooms served as exam rooms, and a fourth was equipped with a tiny apparatus “designed to X-ray skinny people” that required adjusting the position of the patient, not the machine, to get the proper angles.
After he begged for something better, he received it — a World War II surplus X-ray machine designed to be dropped into battle zones by parachute, still unopened in its original crate.
Dorr said he was excited when CHC moved to the 12,000-square-foot clinic on the corner of Tejas Place and West Tefft Street, where there was room for more than one provider and even an education room.
“So for this old-timer to look around and find you are ready to move into this new building, I find it very, very comforting,” he said. “And it’s very exciting.”
Dr. John Khan, the current medical director, compared the care to be offered in the new clinic to that of a symphony, with the patient the soloist.
“This building is designed for us to focus on team-based care,” Khan said.
With an automatic electronic records system for sharing information and the ability to refer patients to another specialty right down the hall, the staff can provide comprehensive medical services.
“As you walk through the building here today, you can feel the spirit of healing and wellness,” said Dr. Joseph Mercardante, dental director.
Fourth District Supervisor Paul Teixeira noted he took a private tour of the facility prior to the dedication ceremony.
“There is only one word to describe this ... and that is ‘wow,’” he said.