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Building Against The Clock At Medical Clinics For SoCal’s Most Vulnerable Residents


At healthcare job sites throughout Southern California, contractors are building against the clock.

While the city of Los Angeles and other local governments in SoCal have allowed construction sites to remain open, they have asked contractors to implement social distancing measures, which limit how fast workers can build. But for companies building healthcare facilities, the race is still on to complete projects that can provide much-needed medical care to those affected by the coronavirus.

Canoga Park-based contractor Parker Brown Construction is building facilities for two clinics that provide free medical care to some of Southern California’s most vulnerable residents. The company is nearing completion at new flagship locations for the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles and the Free Clinic of Simi Valley.

While Parker Brown is taking every precaution to keep employees safe and healthy, it also understands the key role these facilities will play in keeping their respective communities safe in the coming months.

“We’re limited to 10 individuals on every site, but we’re working to get these projects done as quickly as we possibly can,” said John Parker, executive officer and co-founder of Parker Brown.

At its 18 clinics around Los Angeles and Compton, the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center provides medical care to nearly half a million Angelinos every year. Of those patients, about 8,000 are homeless and 32,000 lack U.S. legal status. Those populations are at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus and often lack the financial safety net to provide for their own healthcare if they have lost income.

The new 10K SF St. John’s clinic is being built in a former warehouse in South Los Angeles, and will consist of around six medical treatment rooms, a dental facility with five chairs and a laboratory space as well as office and administrative areas for the doctors and nurses on-site. Along with primary care, the clinic will provide mental health and counseling services.

While his company has built five other buildings with St. John’s, Parker said the logistics of working during a pandemic set the current project apart. While he might otherwise have dozens of people working on the building at any given time, Parker now can have a maximum of just 10. The number of workers is usually capped at eight, since the company has to leave room for building inspectors. 

“We’ve reduced our workforce in so many areas,” Parker said. “If you can’t keep everyone in good health, you can’t build anything. Everybody’s safety is so important, we have to keep that magic number of 10 well spread out across the project.”

To help keep workers healthy, the company has doubled the number of washing stations that it keeps on-site. Parker Brown has also appointed a coronavirus supervisor on each of its sites whose job it is to police hand-washing and cleanliness among all the workers present. 

The Free Clinic Of Simi Valley will be moving into a new 8K SF facility at the Multi-Services Center at 2003 Royal Ave. The clinic will offer primary care, dental, counseling and legal services and has partnered with Kaiser Permanente to bring in second- and third-year resident physicians to provide care  to the uninsured and underinsured residents of Ventura County. 

Though the clinic has received a $700K state grant and has raised $1M from other sources, it does not yet have the financing for the full scope of the construction work, but Parker Brown took the project on anyway. The clinic should be open by May.

“It’s nice for us to feel we’re contributing personally to Simi Valley and do the work even if they may not have sufficient money to pay us,” Parker said. “They’re such a tremendous asset and so many people in Ventura County need these kinds of facilities.”

With cities from San Francisco to Boston shutting down construction sites, LA may seem like a holdout. But with stringent social distancing measures already in place, Parker said he does not expect the city to go any further toward slowing construction. And even if it did halt nonessential construction, work on the medical facilities would still forge ahead.

So far, Parker said, the coronavirus has not taken too large a toll on the company’s overall prospects or its future construction pipeline. Only one project has been called off, a multifamily development in downtown LA, whose owner had his financing fall through. 

In fact, Parker said, two more medical projects have come down the pipe in the last few weeks, including new urgent care centers in Oxnard and Santa Maria for Cottage Health. As a contractor specializing in the medical and biotech fields, Parker said his prospects should still be strong no matter what impact the coronavirus has on the wider economy. 

“I expect more demand for medical facilities,” Parker said. “As the baby boomers get older, we’re all going to see the doctor a lot more often.”

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Parker Brown. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.