USDA loan, District funds and philanthropy to pay for it

The West Side Health Care District is proposing a $9 million project that will add more than 12,000 square feet of clinic space to the current West Side Family Health Care Clinic.

At a formal presentation of the project, District Executive Director Jerry Starr said that majority of the funding -- $5 million -- will come from a long-term, low interest loan the District is seeking from the United States Department of Agriculture and the remaining $4 million will come from District funding and philanthropy.

For the donations, the the District will be relying on the West Side Health Care Foundation, founded to support the District's long-term goals of re-establishing a health care infrastructure in Taft.

The new clinic, scheduled to open in early 2019, will be built adjacent to the current clinic and located where the emergency room for the old West Side Hospital once stood until it was closed 14 years ago.

The new clinic isn't going to be an emergency room or acute care hospital, but an expanded and modernized clinic with room for local pediatric and primary care physicians as well as visiting specialists.

The 12,810 square foot structure will create space to handle increased patient volume as the district adds medical providers plus clinic space to bring specialists to Taft to see and treat patients here and separate waiting area for pediatric patients.The old clinic will be used for expanded dental services, Starr said.

The new clinic will signal a change in the West Side Health Care District provides medical services as well.

"This is a culture change that is in progress," Starr said. "We prefer to schedule care, but we will continue to see walk in patients."

The District has been working on plans for the new clinic, changing and scaling down the plan as it worked with architects to come up with a building design and business plan to get the USDA loan.

The plan settled on will rely heavily on district money and the West Side Health care Foundation, founded several years ago by business man Bob Hampton and local physician Dr. Vibul Tang.

"We will initiate a more formalized fundraising campaign with the Foundation, Starr said.

Charles Landwehr, a member of the Foundation Board attended the meeting.

"Obviously the Foundation is more than willing to do whatever we can to help out," Landwehr said.

Westside Family Health Care is now designated as a rural health clinic and is now receiving a much higher reimbursement from Medicare and Medical for patients it sees.

Since it was opened it 2004, the clinic has been a major expense for the District, contributing to a $1.57 million deficit in 2016.

The higher reimbursement will make the urgent care expenditures dramatically lower and the District goal is to get it to break-even.

At the same time, the District, which relies property taxes for the vast majority of its revenue, is seeing dramatic drops in revenue from continued low oil prices, which affect land valuation.