BUHL — North Canyon Medical Center‘s plan to open a clinic in Buhl has been seven years in the making.
On Thursday, the Gooding-based medical center finally kicked off the project with a groundbreaking ceremony and luncheon. Construction is slated to last about four months, with the clinic opening in late July or early August.
The 6,000-square-foot facility — on Highway 30 near the Buhl Chamber of Commerce and Valley Country Store — will be a family practice clinic and will offer lab and x-ray services. Visiting specialists in orthopedics and general surgery will also use the space.
But it won’t be the only healthcare provider in town. St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center, which already has a clinic in Buhl, plans to begin construction soon on a larger facility in order to expand services.
Why do multiple medical centers want to build or expand in Buhl? There’s a need, hospital and city officials say. Like many areas of the Magic Valley, Buhl’s population has grown in recent years, and there’s a greater demand for medical services, but not enough space or providers.
“This is a big day for us,” Buhl Mayor Tom McCauley told a crowd of more than 100 people at North Canyon’s groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, including hospital employees, city and business officials, and community members.
North Canyon is addressing a need in Buhl for more medical care, McCauley said. Buhl has a wonderful hometown doctor, he said, but the community is growing. “The other thing is none of us are getting any younger, so I think the demand is here.”
Buhl had about 4,300 residents in 2016, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. It gained nearly 200 residents in six years — and that doesn’t include the last two years or any of the surrounding areas outside of town.
North Canyon recently purchased 17 acres of land near the intersection of Clear Lakes Road and Burley Avenue in Buhl. In order to be able to build off Highway 30 — where the clinic will be more visible — the hospital did a land swap with the city of Buhl.
The clinic will be constructed where the Buhl RV Park is now. The RV park will be relocated to the adjacent lot the hospital purchased.
Before officials broke ground with ceremonial gold shovels, North Canyon’s chief executive officer Tim Powers told the crowd: “This is a pretty memorable day.”
The idea of North Canyon building a clinic in Buhl first arose six to seven years ago. “At the time, a lot of things weren’t right,” Powers said, including financially and hospital services hadn’t expanded to what they are now.
With an upcoming election May 15 — when Gooding County voters will decide whether to dissolve North Canyon’s hospital taxing district and allow it to become a nonprofit organization — it allows the medical center to expand outside its primary service area, Powers said.
A number of people come from Buhl to the hospital in Gooding to receive medical care, Powers said. The Buhl facility, he added, will be a “first-class family practice clinic down here.”
Powers thanked Buhl residents, including those who’ve heard presentations at civic groups and public meetings about the project. “You guys have been really warm people,” he said.
Pat Hamilton, vice president and chief information officer for Buhl-headquartered Farmers Bank, is a member of North Canyon’s board of directors. He was part of a community planning group in 2011 that brought up the idea of a clinic in Buhl.
North Canyon’s business model — with a rural, personal touch — fits Buhl, Hamilton said. But it he told the crowd if they go to the hospital in Gooding, they’ll be “pleasantly surprised” by the facility.
North Canyon’s board chairwoman Lucy Osborne told the crowd: “We’re so happy today to be bringing to your city an extension of North Canyon Medical Center.”
Healthcare is a personal choice, Osborne said, adding the new clinic will offer more freedom of choice for local residents.
St. Luke’s Buhl clinic
Soon, Buhl will also be home to an expanded St. Luke’s clinic, which will accommodate more patients and services. The 5,700-square-foot facility on Burley Avenue will cost an estimated $2.4 million.
It will replace the existing family practice clinic on Broadway Avenue South. In addition to family practice, it will house rotating specialists, such as OB/GYN, behavioral health, cardiology and likely, orthopedic surgery. Radiology services such as x-rays will also be offered.
St. Luke’s is in the process of getting construction bids. The construction industry has been booming, St. Luke’s Magic Valley site administrator Mike Fenello said Thursday, so “getting the project to come in timely and on budget has been a bit more of a struggle. We’re actively working through that.”
There’s no timeline yet for when construction start and the clinic will open.
Dr. Bryan Mason, a family practice physician, has been at St. Luke’s existing Buhl clinic since January 2014. The idea for a larger clinic has been a push for a couple of years.
“He has built an incredibly successful practice out there,” Fenello said. “He has had to limit the number of patients he can see and take good timely care of them. His practice has filled up.”
The clinic closed to new patients last year because it couldn’t keep up with the demand. The exception: It accepts family members of existing patients.
St. Luke’s has hired a second medical provider, nurse practitioner Jordan Snapp, to work at the Buhl clinic. She’s in Buhl once a week, but will be there full-time once the new clinic opens and there’s space available.