Canaan — A nonprofit organization that plans to build and operate a community health clinic here has secured $3.3 million in federal rural development loans but needs to raise an additional $280,000 before starting work.
About 2,500 residents have pledged to use a facility that originated “from hundreds of local voices that created a local plan for health care,” according to an informational packet provided by the project’s backers.
The current goal is to complete the fundraising in time to allow ground-breaking next spring on a 13,280-square-foot clinic at the corner of Route 4 and Roberts Road, according to backers of the project. The clinic — which would eventually include offices for doctors, nurses and dentists as well as laboratory, pharmacy, X-ray and mental health care facilities — could then open during the autumn of 2016.
In a meeting with editors and reporters of the Valley News, leaders of Mascoma Community Healthcare Inc. vowed to keep pushing ahead.
“It feels like we have been having these meetings for years and years,” said Pete Thurber, vice president of the board of directors.
In December, the group said it expected to break ground by May and open the doors to the new clinic by the end of this year.
The clinic project’s origins can be traced back to discussions about rising health care costs facing Canaan and other towns in its area, said Mike Samson, the Canaan town administrator and a project leader.
That spawned a grassroots effort, he said: “The goal was to save as much as possible on primary care, drugs and dental care.”
The new clinic would offer each patient primary and dental care and prescriptions for a flat fee of about $1,500, according to backers.
The clinic could break even with 2,100 patients but would need to serve 5,000 to qualify for certain federal payment subsidies, backers say. About 11,000 potential patients live in Canaan and the four other towns — Enfield, Orange, Grafton and Dorchester — that comprise the clinic’s proposed main service area.
The bulk of the funding for the project is expected to come from two 3.5 percent interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: a $2.8 million, 40-year building loan and a $478,000, 10-year equipment loan, Scott Berry, a former Dartmouth-Hitchcock executive who manages the clinic project, told a July 13 meeting of the nonprofit’s board of directors.
To start work, Mascoma Community Healthcare needs to have $600,000 in the bank (about $320,000 has already been committed) and to arrange a bridge loan, Samson told the board. Bank of New Hampshire in Laconia has already promised to provide the bridge loan, and Mascoma Savings Bank is also expected to offer financing, he said.
Samson cited his experience in developing a community health clinic in Plainfield, Vt. He expressed confidence that the nonprofit would be able to find doctors and other medical professionals to staff the clinic. Samson also expressed a desire to launch a new insurance plan that would underwrite coverage for 120,000 patients in federally subsidized community health clinics throughout New Hampshire.
But Samson stressed that what is happening in his community is special, as evidenced by some individuals who donated thousands of dollars they could barely afford: “I am really moved by the level of interest”
Rick Jurgens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3229.