PORT ANGELES — A medical provider that offers medical and behavioral health care regardless of ability to pay is close to purchasing a former sports-bar building and peopling it with five new doctors, the nonprofit’s top executive said this week.
NOHN CEO Dr. Michael Maxwell said the nonprofit is buying the approximately 11,000-square-foot Edna’s Place special-events venue at 1026 East First St.
The acquisition would add a third facility to the growing stable of clinics operated by the North Olympic Healthcare Network (NOHN), he said.
Maxwell said the Health Network has signed a purchase and sale agreement for the 0.74-acre site with property owner Edna Petersen and has paid earnest money. Reports that NOHN bought the building in July, when the agreement was signed, were premature, he said.
Maxwell, who stopped practicing medicine in July after 30 years as a physician, expects the purchase to be finalized in December.
He said the transaction hinges on a federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) low-interest loan that is all but approved. The Health Network is overseen by the HRSA.
The HRSA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, oversees programs for geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable communities (hrsa.gov).
“We’ve already gotten the yes,” Maxwell said Wednesday after discussing the acquisition at the Clallam County Economic Development Council’s “Coffee with Colleen” weekly presentation.
“It’s just a matter of, we have to jump through all these process hoops so they can cross all their T’s,” he said.
”They’ve already told us we qualify. We’re just going through the process.”
Architects are reviewing the site for design purposes, Maxwell said
“We’re hoping to have it set for design and permitting by the end of the month,” he said.
“Once it closes, we’ll submit it for permitting and put it out to bid in late December, early January,” Maxwell added.
“With all the continuing supply chain issues, everyone is hoping we can get in there by the third quarter of ‘22 or late fall of ‘22,” he said. “That’s a best-guess estimate.”
The building that houses Edna’s Place was built in 1945 and is listed for $1.4 million by Port Angeles Realty.
Petersen, a former Port Angeles City Council member and former real estate broker, said Klallam Counseling, Sea Ridge Realty and an antique store have occupied the site over more than seven decades. Other tenants included Apria Healthcare medical supply company and, most recently, Fanaticus Sports Grill.
“The bottom line is, [NOHN] made an offer, and other than that, that’s where it is at this moment, and I’m hopeful that it will go forward,” Petersen said Wednesday.
“It’s an iconic building in our community.
“It’s always been and now currently is, and if it goes on to be a medical facility that works for the community, I’m thrilled. It’s part of the community.”
Maxwell said NOHN will spend an additional $1 million to $1.5 million in grants and reserves for renovations. An optometrist is included in the final service plans as part of a five-doctor staff and 15 to 20 other medical and support workers on the payroll. Pharmacy services will be provided.
NOHN’s additional workforce will generate a $1.5 million to $2 million annual payroll, adding to the $10.5 million in wages and benefits accrued yearly by the nonprofit’s other 130 employees, he said.
It was founded as the private-practice Family Medicine of Port Angeles, in 1979, a two-physician business on C Street. It moved to Eighth and Cherry Streets in 1991 and in 2009 into the former city of Port Angeles electric operations building at 240 W. Front St., calling the facility Downtown Health Center and staffing it with eight doctors and three advance practice clinicians (APCs), all of whom provide primary care.
As of Thursday, NOHN had 15 doctors and seven APCs, with one more doctor and two APCs joining the staff in the next three months.
In 2015, Family Medicine changed from a private-practice to nonprofit business, becoming a federal Community Health Center, renaming itself the North Olympic Healthcare Network. It’s run by a community board, the majority of which must consist of patients.
In 2018, NOHN added added a second clinic at 933 E. First St. in 2018, calling it its Expanded Service Building and adding dental care to its health care offerings.
The change from a for-profit to nonprofit was driven by the volume of new patients with insurance due to the Affordable Care Act and the inability of existing medical services to accept new clients, Maxwell said in his presentation, which is available in the “Coffee with Colleen” archives at the EDC’s clallam.org.
Since 2015, NOHN has seen 10,000 new patients, most of whom did not have regular health care providers, the agency said, adding it provides integrated behavioral health staff services and medication-assisted treatment for substance-use-disorder patients.
New patients face a six-eight-week wait for services. There were between 600 and 800 patients on the waiting list as of Thursday.
Clients are made up of one-third each Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance patients.
The Healthcare Network is collaborating with the Port Angeles School District to provide services through a mobile health clinic that offers medical and dental-care diagnosis and behavioral health consultations to qualified students on a sliding fee scale down to no charges beginning Monday. Tours are planned Saturday. (For more information, see Page A4.).
NOHN collaborates financially and operationally with the Port Angeles Fire Department on its community paramedicine program, with Swedish Medical Center and Olympic Medical Center on physician and medical-resident staffing, and with Peninsula College’s medical assistant program. College President Luke Robins is on the NOHN’s community board.
Asked to cite the top two or three medical-specialty needs in the community, Maxwell said they all revolve around a lack of licensed mental-health counselors and psychiatric specialists.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected]