Medical Industry Construction Booms around Kennewick, Wash.

Imagine visiting a doctor's office and getting all of your health needs taken care of in one place.

That's the vision Kishore Varada has for three clinics he plans to open at the Spaulding Business Park in Richland.

The first of the clinics will cost nearly $1 million and is part of more than $8.2 million worth of medical and dental office construction in the Tri-Cities in the past year, according to building permits issued by the four cities. And that figure does not include work on the $7.3 million Benton-Franklin Health District building in Kennewick or construction in outlying areas.

Medical construction accounted for about 14 percent of new commercial construction in the area in the last year, based on building permits issued. The four cities have issued nearly 160 new commercial construction permits since October 2006, more than 20 of which were specifically for medical space.

The medical industry continues to be the fastest growing in the Tri-Cities, said state regional economist Dean Schau. He credits the increase to an aging population and growth.

"As you get more people, you're better able to support sub-specialties (of doctors)," said Dr. Richard Long, president of the Benton-Franklin County Medical Society. "You need to have a baseline population to justify having them in your community."

And older people tend to use more services, officials said, which increases the need for doctors and medical space.

Medical jobs have been on the rise since 2000, Schau said. In December of that year, there were 6,590 people working in health care in Benton and Franklin counties. That number grew to 8,611 in December 2006. Those numbers include only private health care, Schau said.

Varada, a certified physicians assistant, decided to build Reliance Medical Clinics PLLC to create a "one-stop shop" for patients.

The first clinic will house up to a dozen primary care physicians and is set to open by Dec. 1.

Dr. Jerry Hiner, chief medical officer for Reliance, said there is a need for such service in the Tri-Cities.

"Usually you get run all over town for different treatments," Hiner said.

Patients will have access to internal medicine, women's health services, pediatrics, geriatrics, dermatology and neuro-psych care. There will also be an on-site lab and a room for minor surgeries, Varada said. The 10,000-square-foot clinic will have 24 exam rooms, including four with negative air pressure that will prevent contagious germs from getting into other parts of the clinic.

Records will be electronic and accessible in all three buildings once they are finished, Varada said. The entire project is expected to cost around $10 million.

Varada said the first clinic will create 35 new jobs, including three physician positions that will be filled with people from outside the area. Other specialists also are looking to fill gaps in the region's health care needs.

Tri-City Orthopaedic Clinic in Richland will break ground Nov. 12 for an 18,000-square-foot clinic at Vista Field, said Bob Bertsch of Ashley-Bertsch Group Inc.

The new building will be an expansion of the practice, he said. A $3 million building permit for the project is under review, said Michelle Dellinger, planning technician for Kennewick.

Sometimes getting an appointment with a specialist can take a month or more, which prompted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Rodney Graves to move his practice from Olympia to Richland. River City Foot and Ankle PLLC occupies a recently renovated office in a building on Stevens Drive near Kadlec Medical Center.

Hospital clinics are also expanding. Lourdes Health Network announced recently that it will open Lourdes Women & Children's Center on the corner of Wrigley Drive and Road 68 in Pasco, said Melanie Johnston, director of marketing for Lourdes Health Network.

The clinic will occupy the first floor of a 33,000-square-foot, two-story building. Construction is set to start in the beginning of November, said developer Bob Johnson.

"It's the new Pasco," he said. "There's so much population out there and doctors offices were few and far between. It's general common sense that the area's going to need doctors."

Lourdes also is breaking ground this month to remodel its surgical department, Johnston said.

Kadlec Health Services is building a $1.9 million primary care clinic on Sandifur Parkway in Pasco, said Rand Wortman, president and CEO for Kadlec Health Services. The hospital also is planning primary care clinics in south Kennewick and West Richland and will bring in physicians to accommodate for area growth, he said.

And Kennewick General Hospital has opened a 1,500-square-foot walk-in clinic on West 27th Avenue and Union Street. The hospital also is finishing space on Deschutes Avenue for the Rod Coler Center for Senior Health, and another walk-in clinic on Gage Boulevard in south Richland, said Theresa Long, director of business development and marketing for KGH.

The senior health center will open Dec. 10, Long said, and the other walk-in clinic will open in January.