Spokane’s Riverpoint campus soon will have a 43,000-square-foot medical clinic that will be used as a training site for new doctors and other health care professionals.
Washington State University’s board of regents gave final approval Friday for the $16.25 million project, which will house a physician residency consortium known as the Spokane Teaching Health Center and bolster the school’s expansion of its health and medical sciences programs.
“It is a significant step forward,” said WSU President Elson Floyd.
The new facility will be staffed by medical school graduates serving as resident physicians under the supervision of training doctors. The clinic also will be used to help train the university’s nursing and pharmacy students and is designed to emphasize interprofessional cooperation and a team approach to overall patient treatment.
The consortium, which consists of WSU Spokane, Providence Health Care and Empire Health Foundation, was formed last year to begin boosting the number of federally funded physician residency slots available here.
Of the state’s existing 1,600 residency slots, just more than 100 are in Eastern Washington, according to WSU and Providence.
Residency training is the final phase of education before medical school graduates can begin practicing on their own. Most residencies last three years, though some specialties take longer. The consortium is focused on primary care, specifically family practice and internal medicine.
Providence already operates a family care residency program at the Fifth and Browne building in Spokane and will be moving its 41 resident physicians to the new clinic, which provides primary care services for low-income and underinsured patients.
Additionally, the consortium landed a $900,000 federal grant that will pay for six more primary care residencies and is eligible for up to 18 under a potential expansion that would require congressional approval. Those residency positions also would be at the new clinic.
Although separate from WSU’s push to establish its own medical school, Floyd said the new clinic complements the university’s commitment to addressing rural doctor shortages.
“This is very consistent with what we’re trying to do,” he said Friday.
Studies indicate doctors are most likely to establish their practices near where they did their residency training. Additionally, the residency program includes dedicated training slots for those who are preparing for medical careers in rural communities.
Construction of the new clinic is expected to take about a year and will be located at the southeast edge of the campus. The old Pierone building will be demolished beginning in early 2015 to make room for it.
WSU will sell bonds to pay for construction and plans to repay them with revenue from the consortium.
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