New medical clinic to open in Monroe

MONROE — SeaMar Community Health Centers, a nonprofit organization that has clinics throughout the Puget Sound region, will open a medical clinic in Monroe in April.

The clinic is open to anyone but is targeting the estimated thousands of patients who now have trouble getting medical treatment in the Skykomish Valley. This includes children and adults without health insurance and Medicare and Medicaid patients, said Mary Bartolo, SeaMar’s deputy director.

The SeaMar clinic is badly needed to provide basic health care in east Snohomish County, said Mark Judy, chief executive of Valley General Hospital in Monroe.

The clinic will allow patients to get follow-up care, rather than the in-and-out treatment provided by hospital emergency rooms.

“We’re looking forward to having them come, the sooner the better,” Judy said.

The exact date of the clinic’s opening has not been set but is expected in early April, Bartolo said.

SeaMar had been looking for a site to open a new clinic in Monroe for about two years, before choosing the building at 17707 W. Main St., she said.

The 4,083-foot clinic expects to offer up to 8,000 medical appointments to patients in its first year.

Initially, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. Saturday or evening hours could be added later, Bartolo said.

The minimum charge for an office visit is expected to be about $40, but the clinic will not turn away patients if they cannot pay, she said.

With about 10 percent of Monroe’s population of Hispanic origin, the clinic expects to have at least one physician and an office manager who are bilingual, Bartolo said.

SeaMar hopes to add dental services at its Monroe clinic, but probably won’t be able to do so for at least a year, she said.

SeaMar will continue to operate its outpatient mental health and substance abuse services at its current offices at 909 W. Main St., Bartolo said.

Donna Olson, board president of Take The Next Step, a Monroe nonprofit agency that offers job skills and other assistance to the unemployed workers and families in need, said some uninsured people in the Skykomish Valley are now traveling as far as Shoreline for medical care.

Or, they try to do without preventative care and end up going to a hospital emergency room, she said.

“I think it’s awesome,” Olson said of the new medical clinic. “There’s so many people with so many needs.”

Many of these patients, who can’t get regular medical care, end up seeking treatment at the emergency room of Valley General Hospital in Monroe, she said.

Ken Green, director of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County which also runs nonprofit clinics, said his organization and SeaMar have been interested in opening a clinic in the Skykomish Valley for three to four years.

“We’re really glad SeaMar is about to put together a program out there,” he said.

In addition to serving patients without health insurance, the organization has strong ties to serving Hispanics, he said.

“There’s a sizeable Latino population in Monroe,” he said. “So I think it’s really going to be great for that community that they’re out there.”

The new clinic is expected to reduce what has been the increasing number of uninsured patients and others who cannot pay their medical bills coming to Valley General Hospital’s emergency room for care, said Judy, the hospital executive.

Fifty-six percent of the total $4.9 million the hospital provided in charity care last year went for treating patients in its emergency room. Charity care is medical services provided to patients who are uninsured or can’t pay all the medical bills.

Mark Raney, one of two physicians at the Sky Valley Family Medicine clinic in Sultan, said that he has been unable to accept any new Medicaid patients because his office is already swamped with patients.

“We have too many patients, period,” he said.

The SeaMar clinic is “a great, great development” for the whole upper Skykomish Valley.”

Herald reporter Sharon Salyer at 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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