Clinic fills needs of growing Valley

(Editor's note: The following story first appeared in the Valley Values supplement and contained several errors. The corrected story is reprinted here in its entirety.)

By Ben Cape

Staff Writer

SNOQUALMIE - A stunning view of the Valley can be seen from the helicopter pad at the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, but there are few patients to behold it.

Since being shut down in 1997, the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital has had to slowly get back on its financial feet, but Dr. Dean Steele believes it is now standing.

"When the hospital closed in '97, they had no referral base," said Steele, who is now the managing partner of Cedar Healthcare Associates based out of the hospital. "But we are building a patient referral base now."

When the hospital was closed, Steele, who had worked at the hospital since 1994, was approached by hospital commissioner Dick Jones to come up with a plan to continue offering medical services to Valley residents in the hospital district.

Steele, along with fellow doctors Robert Brooks and Jennifer Rowe, opened the Meadowbrook Clinic. They have been growing slowly ever since.

Although the number of patients has grown, it has not been easy. Steele explained that the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital ran short of money because it ran short of patients. Since most residents of the Valley are referred to outside hospitals and specialists by their primary physicians, the hospital had a small market share.

Steele admitted there are not specialists in the Valley since most people are sent to Issaquah or Bellevue to specialists with which their doctors already have a relationship.

"Your friends tell you what doctor to see," Steele said. "And you're going to take their word for it. Why not? It's the way it has always been."

But he believes he can build a referral base for the hospital with the slow and steady growth of Meadowbrook Clinic. As he gets more patients, the more needs will be met and the more services the clinic will offer.

So far, it is working. The clinic added its first specialist, internal medical doctor Mary Shroff, this past February. Family doctor Lyndsey Rasmussen started this summer, and Dr. Mark Lewis was brought on as a podiatrist.

Steele said the clinic has seen more than 900 patients a month during the busy times, and the number of patients has increased every month. The clinic is leasing space from the hospital, which opened in February of this year, and Brooks delivers babies at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue.

"We hope to soon be delivering babies at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital," Steele said.

Another hope is for the clinic to continue building its patient base from the ground up.

"I want people to go where they're comfortable," Steele said.

There is still plenty of room to grow at the clinic and hospital, though. eventually Steele said he would like to see a whole range of specialists available - from ear, nose and throat specialists to general surgeons.

"We want to offer multi-specialty care to the Valley," Steele said. "Our doctors live in the Valley and pay taxes to the hospital district because they want to see it succeed. Hospital-based medicine is the type of medicine we want to practice."

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