BISHOP, California—For thousands of people in rural Eastern Sierra counties who count on the Toiyabe Indian Health Project (TIHP) for their primary health care needs, Toiyabe’s new clinic is nothing short of a lifesaver.
The $17.5 million facility includes two main buildings totaling 55,000 square feet that house the comprehensive health and wellness facility providing primary care, pharmaceutical, dialysis, behavioral health, dental, preventive medicine, public health, optometry, pharmacy and laboratory services.
“The new clinic buildings allow us to expand services and better serve our patients and community,” said David Lent, TIHP chief executive officer. “We have a large meeting space for community gatherings, where we will be hosting our second annual Health Fair on Saturday, March 25.
“After all services are moved in, Phase 2 of the new facility will include a healing garden on the east side of the building, providing a place of soothing refuge for our patients, families and staff. We would like to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for our long-term, low-interest loan, and the Bishop Paiute Tribe for the lease of the land we will now occupy.”
The new Bishop clinic at 250 See Vee Lane puts almost all health services under one roof, except TIHP’s dialysis unit, which will stay in the clinic’s old location at 44B Tu Su Lane. Patients will experience no disruptions in service.
“The new clinic allows Toiyabe to expand our primary care services in a larger, beautiful, healing space,” said Nancy Fong, family nurse practitioner and medical director. “We are also looking to collaborate with regional specialists such as cardiology and nephrology to bring those services to a convenient location for our patients. We are excited to be bringing optometry to our clinic and hope to expand services to eventually include physical therapy and other specialty services.”
The clinic features state-of-the-art medical and dental equipment in spacious patient rooms. The clinic also serves the community with a fully stocked pharmacy, a nationally recognized Preventive Medicine department, locally staffed and experienced Family Services department, a Community Health department that includes a Women, Infants and Children program, and a newly expanded Optical department. Local optometrist Stuart Hiroyasu has come aboard to provide full optical services, including onsite eye exams.
Funded by a loan from the USDA, the new clinic has been in the works for several years. The clinic is situated on two acres of land on the Bishop Paiute reservation, at the base of the Sierra Nevada and White Mountain ranges. The Bishop Paiute Tribe is the fifth largest tribe in California, with just over 2,000 tribal citizens, yet the tribe retains one of the smallest land bases.
The people who primarily depend on Toiyabe Indian Health Project descend from ancestors of the Mono Lake and Yosemite area and extend throughout the Owens Valley and Death Valley regions. These are the ancestral lands of the Northern Paiute, “Owens Valley” Paiute and Western Shoshone. The patients who utilize the Bishop clinic today come from tribes all over the nation, as well as greater numbers of non-Natives every year. The organization is governed by seven federally recognized tribes: the Utu Utu Gwaitu Tribe (Benton), Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley, Bishop Paiute Tribe, Bridgeport Indian Colony, Fort Independence Indian Reservation, Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation, and Timbisha Shoshone Tribe (Death Valley).
Historically, Toiyabe Health Project did not have a physical clinic and started as a shuttle service to the closest Indian hospital on the Walker River Indian Reservation in Schurz, Nevada, two and a half hours north of Bishop. There was a small office with a number of nurses that provided care to families in Bishop and surrounding communities. Community health representatives (CHRs) would pick up pregnant women and patients in need and deliver them to Schurz, where babies were born and other care was provided. Generations of tribal babies were born this way. From there, Toiyabe evolved into a small clinic on Barlow Lane, later moving to the facility on Tu Su Lane, where it remained for more than 20 years.
The new clinic will have 45 percent more examination rooms, allowing the necessary space for TIHP services to expand and grow. This will allow TIHP to be more efficient and effective in serving patients. The larger facility offers a spacious waiting area, expanded dental and medical facilities, a larger and more accommodating pharmacy, and ample parking.
Toiyabe was founded in 1968 as the Tri-County Indian Health Project out of the need for Native people to take control of their health care, and later expanded under the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1977. In addition to the main clinic in Bishop, there are satellite clinics in Coleville and Lone Pine, California.
More information can be found on Toiyabe’s website, or follow TIHP on Facebook for announcements and information. A grand opening celebration is being planned for April 20.