There are few options for health care in the eastern half of Mesa County, which is an issue Community Hospital and the town of Palisade are working to address.
Community Hospital President and CEO Chris Thomas said they operate health clinics throughout Mesa County, from Fruita to Grand Junction, but don’t have any options past their 28¼ Road clinic.
“There’s actually a very sizable contingent of the population of Mesa County that doesn’t have immediate health care,” Palisade Mayor Greg Mikolai said. “We haven’t had it in that part of the Grand Valley in over 20 years.”
Palisade was a natural spot to look for a clinic location, Thomas said, as it could serve the town, as well as surrounding areas like De Beque, Mesa and parts of Clifton. The plan is for a three-to-four-doctor clinic, with nurse practitioners and physician assistants, Thomas said, as well as an urgent care unit.
“I think you should go see your family practice doc in your neighborhood,” Thomas said. “Don’t come to the hospital to see a family practice doc. Go get your check up, go get your regular visit and then go home.”
He and Mikolai drove around town looking at options and the old Palisade High School jumped out as a good spot. It’s centrally located and has access off a main road into town. The problem is the building is too costly to renovate, Mikolai said. Tearing it down and building a new structure would cost much less, which is what the town plans on doing.
“I think it’s a shame for a building like that, but I think when we balance it out with what we’ll be bringing into the community with this clinic, I think people are going to recognize that it is the right decision,” Mikolai said.
The old high school is on the corner of Iowa Avenue and U.S. Highway 6. The highway itself will be getting an upgrade between Main Street and Iowa Avenue next year. Along with a new clinic that will make for a very different looking trip into town.
“So this is going to encompass a new look for Palisade as you’re coming into one of the main entrances of town,” Mikolai said. “Not only will we have this really beautiful highway, multimodal transportation avenue, but then to have this really nice new building there on the corner of Highway 6 and Iowa Avenue I think is going to really say a lot about Palisade.”
Palisade still must identify funding.
It has committed to funding the $1.4 million it will take to mitigate the asbestos and tear down the old building. And it is working with Community to explore other options to pay for the $3.2 million clinic building. Community Hospital will provide the equipment and do the interior build out.
The town does have options from fundraising to potentially tapping federal American Rescue Plan money to pursuing a certificate of participation to finance the project. It also wants to move quickly.
Mikolai said the asbestos mitigation and demolition could be done by late September, with construction of the new building starting soon after that. The building itself could take a year to build, but Mikolai said he thought it could be completed on a faster timeline.
“I’d love to see it done by March or April of next year,” Mikolai said. “I know that’s maybe pushing it a little bit, but I’d love to see us have this thing done.”
Both Mikolai and Thomas said they wanted the clinic to happen as soon as possible. The doctors are ready, Thomas said. Three doctors are interested in practicing at a Palisade clinic. For now, they’ll practice at the 28¼ Road clinic, Thomas said.
“This is absolutely right in our mission to provide health care to the community,” Thomas said. “It’s expensive to go to the emergency room. We need people to get care on the front end. Seeing their family practice doc or their internal medicine physician is absolutely where people should be getting health care, not in the emergency room.”