Sanford Children's Clinic in Klamath Falls, Oregon: The Perfect Scenario

With the largest, single private grant ever given to a healthcare organization in 2007, Sanford Health launched the Sanford International Clinics Initiative to develop a series of pediatric clinics in areas of the U.S. and around the world that lack sufficient primary care services. Sanford collaborates with local community stakeholders and seeks supporting contributions to provide sustainable outpatient, community-specific care. Sanford's current and future clinics under this Initiative include Duncan, Oklahoma; Oceanside, California; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Ghana, Africa; and the Baja Area of Mexico.

In October 2012, Sanford opened its third domestic Children's Clinic in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The clinic resulted from a perfect collaboration between national- and state-level healthcare organizations, community leaders, business partners, local pediatricians, and Sanford. In short, Klamath Falls provides the ideal example of what Sanford seeks to develop through its International Clinics Initiative.

The Klamath Falls project began in 2008, with help from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Oregon Pediatric Society. Both organizations helped identify Klamath Falls, along with four other communities in Oregon, as potential underserved pediatric communities in the Northwest portion of the United States. On paper, Klamath Falls seemed the least likely location out of the five to build a clinic because the community had a relatively sufficient pediatrician-to-child ratio for the region. Typically, the AAP recommends one pediatrician to every 2,000 children per community.

This perception quickly changed, however, with Sanford's first visit to Klamath Falls. Upon arrival, Sanford learned the community had six pediatricians but several of them were approaching retirement. Sanford also learned that one of the community's two pediatric clinics was technologically outdated, and that the whole community was struggling economically due to the country's recession. Because of its need of revitalized pediatric services, the Klamath Falls community welcomed Sanford's expertise in rural recruitment and its system of healthcare integration. Indeed, "when our plane landed in Klamath Falls, we were met by representatives from the chamber, the business community, local government, and local healthcare partners. Everyone who would have a stake in this project was there," explains Michael Saba, Executive Director of Development for Sanford International Clinics. "That's when we knew we had a winner."

The model for Sanford's initiative focuses on a shared investment with the communities in which it develops these clinics. Beyond the operating capital Sanford provides for each of its clinics, it is responsible for the development and operation of the clinics, including selecting locations, developing clinic models, building facilities, recruiting professionals and providing services. To each of its clinic, Sanford also commits management resources, including facilities; IT; Electronic Medical Records; Human Resources; Marketing; Patient Financial Services and Coding departments, among other functions. Sanford intends that each facility be self-sustainable within three to five years of opening, and in working towards self-sustainability, Sanford collaborates with local community stakeholders to identify the procurement of land for development of the clinic, and cost of clinic construction.

Thanks to the hard work of several Klamath Falls community partners, Sanford secured land for the clinic, a philanthropic donation for the capital costs of construction, and a hospital partner:

  • Dr. Robert Quinn, a local physician and entrepreneur, provided a beautiful piece of property for the clinic's location.
  • Seeing the project as an opportunity to bolster their city's economy, Jeld Wen, a national windows and doors manufacturing company based in Klamath Falls, provided the financial guarantee to support the philanthropic capital needed for the construction of the clinic. While providing this financial guarantee, Jeld Wen spearheaded an effort to raise these committed funds through various community corporations as well as foundational and granting entities with strong ties to the Klamath Falls area. Through this successful effort, Jeld Wen secured much of the needed capital to construct the clinic without bearing the total cost on their organization.
  • Another community partner, Sky Lakes Medical Center, saw a growing need for pediatric care and eagerly agreed at an early stage to support the project and work with Sanford to provide complimentary services such as advanced laboratory and imaging services. Sky Lakes Medical Center further identified an increased demand for adult medical outpatient services, which resulted in the construction of a second level for the facility while constructing the pediatric clinic. Thus, the clinic's success grew not only because of the community's need for additional pediatric services, but because of the community's engagement and support for additional outpatient services overall.

The community's involvement in the project continued to grow once construction began. As an initial matter, Sanford worked closely with the local governmental authorities on obtaining the necessary approvals for this project. Additionally, not only did Sanford bring improved health care to the children of the region, the clinic helped boost the region's economy by creating new jobs throughout the entire phase of this project, including development, implementation and operation phases. Sanford's operational model entails utilizing existing community development, staffing personnel and contracting resources in fulfilling the architectural / construction and clinic operational needs. A local Klamath Falls contractor was used for the construction, and whenever possible, Sanford purchased materials locally. And local talent was secured to staff and operate the clinic in carrying out the Sanford clinic model.

On October 4, 2012 Sanford and the Klamath community celebrated the grand opening of the clinic with at Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting event and clinic tours for the general public. More than 300 guests attended the events including Denny Sanford, Andy North and Gary Hall Jr.. The clinic opened with six providers who within the first few months were already seeing around 1300 patients per month.

"Sanford Children's Klamath Falls is a place of pride for us at Sanford Health," adds Jim Slack, Vice President of Sanford International Clinics. "From what I've witnessed we created a place of pride for the children and families of this community as well. That's really what we're looking to accomplish. We want to find communities like Klamath Falls that have a need but who are also willing to work with us in establishing sustainable primary pediatric care for the community."