Crews assemble building for new women’s clinic in Soledad

Opening delayed due to coronavirus

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Work crews use a crane to move pieces of the Women’s Health Center into place next to the Soledad Medical Clinic. After some delays, the new facility is now expected to open in June. (Contributed Photos)

SOLEDAD — Building components for the new Women’s Health Center in Soledad were finally moved onto their foundation last week. 

The pieces were delivered Jan. 31 and have sat in the parking lot of Soledad Medical Clinic awaiting city approval and the setting of the foundation. 

Work crews used a crane to move the eight pieces of the health center building into place over the course of an hour and a half on April 8. Hooking up utilities began the following day. 

The next steps will include finishing the inside, such as the installation of sheetrock, before inspectors can approve the opening.

“Coronavirus probably set us back two weeks,” said Cassie Russo, director of clinic operations at Soledad Medical Clinic. 

The original plans were to open the health center next to the clinic by mid-May. Russo said construction had paused with the onset of the pandemic and statewide shelter-in-place orders, but the clinic was deemed essential and thus construction resumed. From that point, there had only been a few days of additional delay due to rain.

Clinic staff has been dealing with their medical duties while also working to maintain any possible coronavirus infection. Russo said watching the cranes move the pieces into place “brought new life” to them all.

The movement of pieces means the clinic’s parking lot is once again open. The 40 re-opened spots are now intended for patients, as staff will continue to park on the streets or at Soledad High School. Prior to the foundation setting, patients had to park on the street, sometimes facing multiple blocks of walking to get to the door, which was a challenge for older or disabled patients.

The return of the parking lot also means the clinic has space to create isolation tents should the need arise. Currently, there is an isolated tent for potential coronavirus examinations outside the front door. 

“So far it’s working for us having it so close to the door,” Russo said. “We’re anticipating if we get a surge over the next couple of weeks, we have supplies to make more tents.” 

Such an expansion of tents could shift into the parking lot, she explained.

The clinic is currently looking at a June 1 opening date for the new Women’s Health Center. That would require no further hiccups in the schedule. It would also mean additional medical supplies and equipment to have the new building stocked and ready to open.

“Our vendors are completely out on everything,” Russo said.

The clinic’s operations have been impacted, not only with construction and supplies, but also providers. Russo explained all agencies have had to put travel on hold, which has upset the normal processes in working with providers and hiring new physicians. Being able to fly out for an interview is no longer an option.

“It really has hit us from lots of unexpected angles,” Russo said.

The community spirit of South Monterey County has shown during recent times, as Russo said the Mustang Bench in King City donated gloves, Estancia Vineyards in Soledad donated gloves, health care masks were obtained from a recent distribution held in a Kohl’s parking lot and numerous individuals have made donations. She said two employees who were temporarily laid off were at home making masks.

“It’s their way of helping out and doing their part,” Russo said.

Masks have become increasingly important, as Soledad Medical Clinic and Eden Valley Care Center both require anyone coming in to wear a mask. Both facilities, however, don’t have enough disposable masks to hand out, so they are asking patients to wear reusable masks.