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Wellness Clinic opening Fifth Ave. location

It will be a bittersweet day when the Dungeness Valley Health & Wellness Clinic opens the

doors Thursday at its long-anticipated new location at 777 N. Fifth Ave. in Olympic Medical

Center's Sequim Medical Plaza.

"We love the house, it's very cozy. But it's so exciting to be moving into the new building," said Jamie Goodwin, the clinic's director.

The clinic, which serves the uninsured and underinsured of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, is moving out of the small house in front of Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church, 925 N. Sequim Ave., that it has occupied for the past seven years.

The clinic is renting 2,600 square feet at the

Sequim Medical Plaza from Olympic Medical Center for $1 per year, which has been paid for the next five years, said John Beitzel, the clinic's treasurer.

The clinic will pay for its own utilities,

telephone and Internet but the hospital provides free labs and X-rays, he said.

Remodeling the former X-ray and imaging services space began in early May and still was being wrapped up over the weekend, including moving in filing cabinets and exam tables and other miscellaneous items.

The hospital paid $10,000 for demolition and reconstruction and the clinic paid another $1,000 in addition to the numerous in-kind donations of time and materials, Beitzel said.

The doors will open to patients - the entrance actually is at the back of the building - on Thursday but a formal grand opening isn't planned until sometime in November, he said.

"We want to get up and running first and figure out the new space. We do want to have a nice reception," Beitzel said.

The clinic's new location includes a wellness center and conference room that includes a large seating area, projection screen, reference library and Internet access.

It also includes a reception area, a food storage and preparation area plus areas to store charts and lock up prescription drugs.

Goodwin said the two biggest advantages of the new location will be exam rooms separate from administrative offices and dedicated conference space for meetings and workshops.

"The provider base hasn't changed. The number of people we can see is still the same. We still have about nine providers and they have set our limit on how many patients we can see," Goodwin said.

"We have clinic night twice a week but that's not going to change," she said.

The clinic's nine providers include four MDs, a physician's assistant and two nurse practitioners plus another MD and osteopath who work a more limited schedule.

The clinic is open Mondays and Thursdays with intake beginning at 5 p.m. A chronic health care clinic also is held on Tuesdays by appointment.

Goodwin said a "wellness education program" focusing on prevention is planned to start in 2009 and the women's reproductive care offered one day a week by Family Planning of Clallam County also might expand to a second day.

She described the care provided "simple, basic care, not even urgent most of the time."

Any urgent or emergency care is referred elsewhere, Goodwin said.

All the clinic's providers have authority to write prescriptions but no shots are given at the clinic, she said.

Beitzel said 73 percent of the clinic's patients are less than 50 years old, which means they are "the working poor," including people working part time or for small businesses that can't afford to provide health insurance.

"People are getting higher and higher deductibles or their employers don't provide health insurance.

They don't choose to be impoverished. We're seeing $10,000 deductibles. Well, who has $10,000?," he said.

"So what happens then is people don't go to the doctor and they get sick. Then they go to the emergency room, which is the most expensive care there is," Beitzel said.

"We try to divert the chronically ill to take the load off the doctors, although continuity of care for chronic illnesses is desired.

"It's one of the weaknesses of free clinics but it's better than nothing," he said.

The clinic also provides a dental care program that will be expanded, Beitzel said.

The clinic operates on an annual budget of about $120,000 and sees about 870 patients annually.

"We're projecting a 24-percent difference between expenses and revenues but we've always made it through donations. We're not seeing a huge change in giving," Beitzel said.

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