In fact, an estimated 14,000 children and adults in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace may be going without health care, according to the Community Health Center of Snohomish County.
The nonprofit organization is trying to fill some of that need, opening a health care clinic near Swedish/Edmonds hospital that can provide medical services to more than 4,000 children and adults during its first year.
"It's much needed," said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. There's substantial numbers of people in nearby communities living at or just above federal poverty levels, he said.
The new nonprofit clinic at 2170 76th Ave. W. opened Sept. 19, culminating a six-year effort to provide medical services in Edmonds.
One of the first patients to be treated there was a woman in her 60s who worked in real estate and didn't have health insurance. She hadn't been to a medical clinic in 15 years, said Dr. Andy Perry, clinical director of the Edmonds clinic.
Ralph Wahl, 56 and an Everett resident, has been a Community Health Center patient for two years at its clinic in south Everett.
But Wahl decided it was worth the commute to Edmonds to be able to continue to get his care from Perry, who transferred from south Everett to his new assignment at the Edmonds clinic.
"He's a good doctor, and I've been happy with him," Wahl said.
The nonprofit organization spent about $300,000 to remodel 6,000 square feet in an existing building for use as a medical clinic.
The Community Health Center is considering adding dental services at its Edmonds offices, perhaps by January, if the plan gets the go-ahead from its board, said Bob Farrell, the nonprofit agency's chief executive.
It is the second Community Health Center medical clinic in south Snohomish County. Its Lynnwood office opened in 1997.
The organization, founded in 1983, also operates two medical clinics in Everett, one at 1424 Broadway and the other at 1019 112th St. SW.
In a 2008 report, the most recent data available, the Snohomish Health District identified a cluster of Highway 99 corridor ZIP codes as having one of the lowest ratios in the county of primary care practitioners to the overall population -- and the county's second highest poverty rates.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services says the lack of health care providers in the area dates back to 1992.
Uninsured and low income patients often flock to hospital emergency rooms to get medical care. Federal law prevents them from being turned away because of lack of health insurance or the ability to pay.
At Swedish/Edmonds, about 40 percent of emergency room patients are either uninsured or on Medicaid, a federal-state health care program that pays just part of the costs of providing medical care.
However, the cost of an emergency room visit is far higher than an appointment at a medical clinic. And patients often don't get either the preventative or follow-up care they need, said Dr. Jay Fathi, medical director of primary care and community health for Swedish Health Services.
Now, physicians can point to the Community Health Center clinic, a building that can be seen from the hospital's emergency room doors, as a place patients can get regular medical care close at hand, he said.
"It's a gift to the community," Fathi said. "There are many, many patients who will be able to benefit from being able to get their care at this facility."
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org
At a glance
The Community Health Center of Snohomish County's new Edmonds clinic:
Location: 21701 76th Ave. W.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Patients: Health care provided to any patient, but the clinic is intended for adults and children who have trouble getting health care, such as uninsured, Medicaid and low-income patients. Discounted fees are available, based on household income. No one is turned away because of an inability to pay.
Services provided: Internal medicine, family practice, immunizations, diabetes care, chronic disease care, pediatrics and well-child checkups.
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