Health and dental clinic opens doors to expanded facilities

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette New dental examiniation rooms are ready for use during the grand opening of the River Valley Health and Dental Center Wednesday. The clinic now has 18 dental and 29 medical examiniation rooms.

The sunshine of a warm mid-October day added an extra sparkle to the gleaming additions and renovations made to the River Valley Health and Dental Center as officials, employees and community leaders gathered to cut the ribbon for the facility Wednesday.

River Valley Board of Directors Chairwoman Carole Gilberti called the building a state-of-the-art facility and a “welcoming place for healing and wellness.”

The clinic has been operating out of the Hepburn Plaza Shopping Center site, offering health care to many of the community’s under-insured and uninsured health care patients, but expansion and renovations at the site began last  year.

Susquehanna Health Laboratory Outpatient Services formerly was at the site, but relocated to Divine Providence Hospital in 2015.

Lycoming County Commissioner Rick Mirabito said River Valley brings health care savings to the community with many patients using the clinic instead of going to a hospital emergency room for care.

The clinic, he noted, has grown from 11,000 to 23,000 square feet with 19 dental areas and 29 exam rooms.

Additions and renovations were completed Oct. 1.

“Last year, the clinic had 10,000 patients come through the door,” he said.

As a Federally Qualified Health Center, a designation it earned in recent years,  River Valley qualifies for various funding and reimbursement including Medicare and Medicaid, while providing health care to underserved populations.

The clinic formerly was part of Susquehanna Health (now UPMC Susquehanna), but became independent to attain more funding.

With rural populations such as those in Lycoming County growing older and physicians and dentists in shorter supply compared to urban and suburban areas, clinics such as River Valley become increasingly important, Mirabito said.

“What a wonderful addition to the downtown,” said Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana. “This is definitely needed in our downtown.”

Dr. Ralph Kaiser, chief medical officer, said underserved populations have better access to health care than ever.

He noted that River Valley provides not only primary health care and dental care, but other services including behavioral health.

Mirabito said River Valley has a “highly qualified health care team.”

Jan Fisher, a member of the board of directors, applauded everyone for the work that was done to make the project happen.

Fisher, who serves as executive vice president with UPMC Susquehanna, said the health system also has a commitment to providing primary care to patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

Mike Bolsar, asset manager for Liberty Group, the developer of the site, said the project was a good one for the community.