NASELLE — When one door closes, another opens, the old adage goes. On Friday, March 1 Bank of the Pacific officially closed their Naselle branch that had been open since 1974. The decision was the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another, one that could directly impact the health and access to rural care for residents of Naselle.

The former bank is now destined to be the future home of the Naselle Clinic.

A grand opening is likely in late summer or early fall, according to Ocean Beach Hospital CEO Larry Cohen. The new building, located at 309 Knappton Road, will offer more space for services and improved visibility.

“This is a perfect facility to make a clinic,” Cohen said Friday, March 15 moments after exchanging signatures with Bank of the Pacific CEO Denise Portmann.

Right place, right time

The decision to turn the bank into a clinic came at a time when OBH had been searching for an alternative to their current clinic, a rapidly aging two-bedroom manufactured home from the 1970s.

“We had been looking for a new location for a long time and just haven’t found something and then this fell into our lap,” Cohen said. “Sometimes you get lucky.”

Bank of the Pacific CEO Denise Portmann considered it a win-win for the bank which opened their first branch in Long Beach in 1971.

“We didn’t want to have another vacant building left here, so we made some inquiries whether there was a need in area,” Portmann said.

“Very quickly we heard from customers and people in the community that the medical clinic needed a new location,’ she said. “We had a prior relationship with the hospital and they expressed a need as well and we realized this could be a win-win in that regard, because we had no desire to hold onto a vacant building.”

Bigger and better

The new clinic is considerably larger than the current clinic and will include an additional exam room and improved blood draw capabilities with a continued focus on primary care. The tentative plan is to have three exam rooms, two nurse stations and a new blood draw station on the ground-floor level complete with separate entrances for patients and providers. The second floor is expected to be used as a staff lounge and kitchen. The former bank vault — once used to store money — will store medical equipment and supplies in the future. The bathrooms will be remodeled to ADA specifications.

“My goal is to use the building as much as we can,” Cohen said.

With a new building and increased visibility, there’s hope the new clinic will inspire a more proactive approach to healthcare in Naselle.

“If there’s growth, as we hope there might be because of the visibility of this facility, then we can look to add more providers and staff,” Cohen said. Staff at the current clinic include a nurse practicioner, medical assistant and front desk coordinator who will move to the new location once it opens.

Seeking funds

The biggest remaining hurdle is funding. Cohen estimated it would cost $350,000 to transform the bank into a ‘medical grade’ clinic.

“We have a request into the state for some funding for renovation that will be in the July 1st budget,” Cohen said. “We will start the renovation soon after making this into a clinic. We have spent some money on legal fees, signage and an architect for some simple plans to show to the state.”

The current clinic will continue serving patients until the new facility is officially open.

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