Construction is already underway on the Vancouver Clinic’s next expansion, a $70 million building at its existing Salmon Creek campus. The project broke ground in February and will be the health care provider’s 12th local facility, including two that opened less than six months ago.
According to CEO Mark Mantei, the Salmon Creek expansion is the final piece of an aggressive growth strategy that the company laid out six years ago.
“We put together a strategic plan in 2015 that identified all these opportunities, and it’s taken us about five years to execute all that,” he said. “Salmon Creek is really the last project that we planned.”
Growing the footprint
The expansion plan was primarily driven by geography, he said. The first two new locations – Ridgefield and Camas – were chosen with the specific intent to expand the clinic’s footprint into areas which have seen substantial residential growth in recent years.
The Ridgefield location opened in the summer of 2019, followed by Camas last October (the latter’s home in the Columbia Palisades development is technically in east Vancouver rather than Camas, but it’s right at the border).
“Our goal was to have a Vancouver Clinic within about a 10-minute drive for everyone in Clark County,” Mantei said. “Adding those two facilities accomplished that.”
The 75,000-square-foot Salmon Creek expansion is the most ambitious of the trio, measuring in at nearly double the size and double the price tag of the other two put together. As an expansion of an existing campus, it’s intended to grow the clinic’s capability rather than its geographic reach, Mantei said.
The Ridgefield and Camas facilities focus on staples like primary care, urgent care and pediatrics, and the Camas site also hosts an ophthalmology and vision center. The Salmon Creek expansion, to the east of the existing building at 2525 N.E. 139th St., will set itself apart by offering an expanded suite of surgical services.
The facility will add six new operating rooms on top of the three that the clinic currently runs. The big investment in surgery is intended to take advantage of new technology, Mantei said, expanding the kinds of procedures that can be done in an outpatient setting.
“Salmon Creek is obviously the most expensive just because of the square footage and the capability,” he said. “(Operating rooms) are a thousand dollars a foot, easily.”
The building will also be home to what Mantei unofficially refers to as “super urgent care” — a facility with longer operating hours that can handle higher-acuity medical issues than the clinic’s other five urgent care sites.
There will always be some cases like strokes and heart attacks that need to go straight to the emergency room, Mantei said, but the Salmon Creek facility is being envisioned as a sort of middle tier between urgent care and the ER.
The expansion plan has unfolded mostly along the originally envisioned timeline, although Salmon Creek was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary site work was underway before the pandemic began, Mantei said, but the groundbreaking had to be put on hold for more than a year because uncertainty in the banking industry made it more difficult to line up financing.
Other expansion plans
The 2015 plan only included Ridgefield, Camas and Salmon Creek, but the Vancouver Clinic has opened two additional facilities in the same time period, at Vancouver Plaza and Evergreen Place. Mantei described those as more opportunistic decisions that just happened to coincide with a period of planned growth.
The locations are smaller-scale “neighborhood clinics” specifically geared toward seniors, people with chronic illnesses and patients on Medicaid and Medicare, Mantei said, and are operated in partnership with the health insurance company Humana.
They include multipurpose rooms where the clinic plans to host classes and health education, and Mantei said the long-term plan is to also try to set the clinics up to connect seniors with social services such as Meals on Wheels.
“It’s sort of a medical place to hang out for seniors, and we encourage that,” he said.
The Salmon Creek facility will cap off the 2015 plan, but when asked about future growth, Mantei declared that the clinic is “never done,” and pointed to the more impromptu neighborhood clinic projects as an example of the kind of growth the company might see in the future.
He declined to comment about specific project plans, but said that the clinic’s leadership sees it as delivering care in “the greater Vancouver-Portland region.”
“A lot of people work and live across state lines, so I think our health care system has got to be able to address that,” he said.
Mantei said one of the organization’s long-term goals will be to maintain its independence even as it gets larger and attracts attention from bigger competitors. About 250 of the organization’s 400 clinicians are shareholders, Mantei said, and the consensus favors local employee ownership.
“We’ve had plenty of opportunities to sell, but we’ve turned those down because physicians feel that they’re able to deliver the best care when they have a say in how the organization works,” he said. “So I don’t see us deviating from that course.”