Patients are now being treated at the new $14 million El Rio Community Health Center, located in Tucson’s Mercado District on West Congress Street.
When the new clinic is fully staffed, it will be able to serve several thousand more Tucsonans each year, said Brenda Goldsmith, executive director of the El Rio Health Center Foundation.
“We went from 48 exam rooms to 72 patient exam rooms. So we have a lot more capacity in the building," she added.
El Rio will hire eight new physicians and nurse practitioners, bringing the total number of medical providers at the site to 25. Goldsmith said a shortage of doctors and nurses across the country complicates the hiring process, but she hopes the facility will be fully staffed within a year.
Not only is the building bigger than the one it replaced, Goldsmith said it’s also much more energy efficient and was designed to be more welcoming to patients, although some have found it a little confusing.
“But most people are very excited," she said. "We even had patients and staff that had not been in the building when it first opened just burst into tears when they saw it because it’s so dramatically different.”
El Rio serves 80,000 people in the Tucson area each year, most of whom are uninsured or underinsured. About 60 percent of its patients are at or below the poverty line.