Sutter Gould to build health care center in Turlock

11/02/2012 8:38 PM

11/02/2012 11:10 PM

In another change in the health care landscape in Turlock, Sutter Gould Medical Foundation announced Friday that it will build a 37,000-square-foot care center in Stanislaus County's second-largest city.

The two-story center at North Golden State Boulevard and West Christoffersen Parkway will offer specialty, pediatric, internal medicine and primary care, Sutter Gould officials said. Services will include daily and after-hours urgent care, a fully equipped lab and radiology.

Sutter Gould said the $20 million center eventually will have 25 to 30 physicians. The facility is set to open in early 2014, replacing Sutter Gould's smaller Turlock Care Center, which is in a 52-year-old building on East Main Street.

Two acres at the new site will be reserved for future growth.

Sutter Gould is expanding in Turlock during uncertain times in the health care industry. Emanuel Medical Center of Turlock announced 24 layoffs this week and is talking with Tenet Healthcare Corp. about the possible sale of the hospital. Memorial Medical Center of Modesto, which has close ties to Sutter Gould, is preparing to reduce staff by 5 percent, or as many as 150 positions.

So, why is this a good time to build in Turlock?

Paul DeChant, Sutter Gould's chief executive officer, said he expects to see a growing demand for medical services in Turlock and nearby communities. He said the project is a long-term investment that was planned a few years before the recession in 2008, which resulted in extensive job losses in the region and people losing their health benefits.

The recession stalled the project, but it's time to move forward, DeChant said.

He acknowledged that major employers moving in, such as Blue Diamond in Turlock and Amazon.com in Patterson, will increase demand for health care services. In addition, key provisions of the national health care law will make health insurance mandatory in 2014.

"More people are going to be insured in California, no matter what happens in the election next week," DeChant predicted.

More than 30 insurers have applied to participate in the California Health Benefit Exchange, and experts expect elements of health reform will survive even if President Barack Obama is defeated by Mitt Romney on Tuesday.

"For the next five years, we are going to see more change happening in health care than I have seen in my career," DeChant said. "Things are so dynamic and we are preparing for that future. This a long-term decision."

One trend in health care is improving outpatient care for patients with chronic illness, reducing the need for costly hospitalization. With the new center, Sutter Gould can bring more specialty services to Turlock, as well as more advanced imaging and a broader array of primary care, the CEO said.

Sutter Gould has eight physicians working in the old clinic building on East Main. It's too early to know how many doctors will be taking appointments when the new center opens.

When services are fully developed at the center, it could have 100 employees, DeChant said.

Plans for the Sutter Gould project will require city approval. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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