Health clinic plans revealed at town hall

Scott Swanson

Samaritan Health unveiled plans Thursday, March 3, for its new urgent care and family health clinic, to be built next to Wiley Creek Community off 49th Avenue. 

In a virtual “town hall” presentation, Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital CEO Marty Cahill, hospital Foundation Executive Director Brandy O’Bannon and Samaritan Health Services Board chair Milt Moran laid out some of the specifics of Samaritan’s plans for the new facility and for the building currently housing Sweet Home Family Medicine. 

Moran noted that he first became acutely aware of the community’s needs for healthcare when Sweet Home Health Committee members collaborated in 2018 with medical students from COMP-Northwest in a survey that revealed a lack of understanding of and access to community health services. 

The survey revealed concerns about high turnover among doctors – it was conducted soon after several local physicians had left Sweet Home Family Medicine for various reasons, a lack of awareness of existing health resources and the lack of after-hours care and transportation for an aging population. 

Moran said he was “shocked” to learn that many people in Sweet Home use Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District “as a health center.” 

“That was quite concerning to me,” he said. “I knew we needed to do something about that.” 

Transportation is an issue, he said. 

“I drive all over the place, but for some folks it’s hard to drive from Sweet Home to Lebanon. It may not be possible.” 

Moran said he hopes the new clinic will ease that strain. 

“SHFAD [Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District] is putting many, many miles on their ambulances,” he said. “Hopefully, people will go to the urgent care to be taken care of rather than wearing out the ambulances.” 

New Clinic to Meet Local Needs

Cahill said the project’s goal is to provide healthcare in close proximity to residents and lessen the impact on emergency response. The clinic will enable treatment of more serious medical concerns locally, he said. 

He cited the mission statement for the project: “Sweet Home Family Medicine Clinic will be a source of pride in delivering consistent access to reliable, patient-centered whole health care to all members of the community.” 

Samaritan plans a 17,000-square-foot family medicine and urgent care clinic, and a heli-pad to be located on the 42-acre site.

Cahill noted that it will be “a significant investment in Sweet Home” that will positively impact the business community. The location also offers space to expand in the future. 

The estimated cost of the project is $9.5 million, funded by proceeds from Samaritan’s sale of Wiley Creek Community last year to Mosaic Management, a significant investment from Samaritan Health Services and philanthropy from the local community.

To date, $1.14 million has been raised locally and the capital campaign is actively seeking contributions from individuals and businesses through 2022, Samaritan has reported. 

Cahill listed a list of needs in Sweet Home – urgent care, behavioral health, memory care, long-term care and physical therapy are “all our core competencies.” 

“These are things we do,” he said. “They are not much different than any community in any (of the three counties served by Samaritan Health), or any community in the country. These desires for the community are not out of bounds. I think we can match up in those five areas through our partnership with Mosaic.” 

Currently, he said, established patients at the 10,000-square-foot Sweet Home Family Medicine face an 18-day lag when scheduling an appointment – other than same-day shots. New patients have to wait a minimum of 40 days – and some have waited 120 – to get an appointment. 

Clinicians at the current clinic each have about 7,500 patients assigned to each care team, he said, and none are accepting new patients except through Oregon Health Plan. 

Cahill also noted Sweet Home’s population growth from 8,925 in 2010 to 10,439 in 2020. He cited Community Economic Development figures showing 350 building permits issued in 2021, up from 274 the previous year. 

“From an affordability perspective, there’s an availability of space,” Cahill said. “Sweet Home is a place people want to live. It’s an untapped resource starting to become tapped.” 

That growth, he said, is resulting in more services coming to town, as the business community takes notice.

Enhanced Care and Services

“Sweet Home is asking us to step up and do more,” Cahill said. 

The new clinic, he said, will offer urgent care seven days a week, plus a retail pharmacy, dental care, a laboratory and behavioral health. 

“Our goal is to be open when patients need us,” he said, adding that that could include longer hours per day, Saturday and/or Sunday operations.  The current clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

The new clinic will be staffed by primary care doctors, medical assistants and lab staff, support staff and “people to sign you in,” Cahill said. “We will have a nurse or medical assistant to help with tele-medicine, check vital signs.” 

The current staff at Sweet Home Family Medicine will move to the new facility and at least one new clinician will be added when the doors open, plus two or more in the next several years. That would increase the number of doctors or physician assistants from six to nine. 

He said that the current clinic is “fully staffed” and that the number of added positions will not be “significant” – probably three to five. 

“We have an excellent staff who are devoted to Sweet Home,” Cahill said.

He said later that the goal will be to hire primary care doctors who will “live and work in Sweet Home as the current clinicians do.” 

He said the plan is to have not only regular staff but to use a pool of providers “who can move around” to cover needs at this and other urgent-care clinics that Samaritan operates in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties.

“Some may live and work in Sweet Home or Lebanon, while others will move around the valley.” 

Cahill said Physician’s Assistant Rick Parrish, who manages the walk-in patients at Sweet Home Family Medicine, “is doing a fantastic job. But I don’t think [he] will want to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week.”  

The 17,000-square-foot Wiley Creek facility will feature 18 exam rooms and two talk rooms for family medicine – the current clinic has 11. It also will nearly double the walk-in patient exam rooms from four at Sweet Home Family Medicine to seven. 

Also, he said, psychiatric treatment is expected to be available remotely via tele-health, and possibly, orthopedic or cardiology treatment. 

“Having behavioral health there is really important.” 

“Technology-wise, we have it. We just need to hire the professionals, the doctors,” Cahill said. “There’s a large shortage of people in that profession.” 

Consultation and treatment rooms in the new facility will be larger than they are at Sweet Home Family Medicine, anywhere from 10 to 25 square feet of more space over the current clinic, and will use pocket doors, which will increase their functionality, he said. 

There are currently no plans to establish a SamFit gym on the premises, he said, responding to a question from a viewer. 

“There’s a gym already in Sweet Home that is meeting the needs of the community. I don’t see it right now.” 

Summer Start

Groundbreaking is planned for this summer, probably in July or August, Cahill said. Samaritan has Mahlum Architects of Portland working on plans for the facility and once it has blueprints in hand, it will go to a competitive bid for a contractor. 

Construction is expected to be complete next year, although progress may depend on the availability of materials. 

“Looking around the country, a lot of things are happening,” Cahill said, citing wildfires in Colorado in November and hurricanes on the East Coast that have impacted the availability of building supplies. “Resources are really limited.” 

The right contractor, he said, may not be the one that necessarily presents the lowest bid, but that can get the job done on schedule. 

Cahill displayed artist’s concepts of the one-story clinic’s exterior and entry foyer, noting that there will be a strong emphasis on forest products in the design. 

“There will be a healthy amount of wood presence in the clinic,” he said. “We want to use as much wood in the accents and the structure as we can.” 

He said he didn’t anticipate “much disruption” of traffic flow in the area, since there are 2½ vacant acres on the property that can accommodate construction equipment and supplies. 

Physical Therapy Expansion

Remodeling of the current 10,000-square-foot clinic site is expected to start in the spring of 2023. 

Cahill said “the old Langmack Hospital site is still a good place” and that Samaritan plans to invest “a couple of million dollars” in upgrading the clinic for use as a physical therapy and, possibly, occupational therapy treatment center. 

He said he’d “personally like to see occupational therapy out there,” but that’s also an area in which it’s hard to find practitioners. 


Cahill said the helicopter landing pad “is a big ask” from the community, and will be available to whoever needs to use it, which is the case with Samaritan’s Lebanon pad. 

“We’ve got loggers in the woods, hikers out there,” he added, noting that choppers from LifeFlight or Reach won’t have to “land on the football field.” The landing site will also be available to timber industry pilots and to the Coast Guard. 

“They occasionally land at the (Lebanon) hospital already to familiarize pilots with the landing zones,” Cahill said of the latter. 

He added that Samaritan isn’t planning to get into flying. 

“We’re just building a landing zone. We’re not trying to build a fleet of helicopters.” 

Community Contributes

Moran, who has chaired, with Miriam Swanson, the committee tasked with fundraising and planning for the new facility, listed the members: Fire Chief Dave Barringer, Bob Dalton, Steve Hanscam, Larry Horton, Wendi Melcher, Sweet Home Family Medicine Physician’s Assistant Meaghan O’Conner, Debbie Paul, Marsha Philpot and Ray Towry. 

O’Bannon told of a patient at Sweet Home Family Medicine who told her that the clinic is “bursting at the seams” and has been for a “long time.”

The patient said that if a condition is serious, “it’s too far to go to Lebanon.” 

O’Bannon said contributions are still being accepted, of all gifts and sizes, and donors at the $1,000 level and above will be recognized with names on a wall of the clinic lobby. Room-naming opportunities are also available, she said. 

“If this project resonates with you, I encourage you to participate as a donor,” she said. “For some community members, it’s important to have their names listed on the donor wall in the lobby. They’ve given so their children and grandchildren can see their names and understand that community health is important.” 

Prospective contributors can contact her at (541) 451-7063 or [email protected], or talk to Christy Duncan or Moran or other committee members.