Dr. Fahim Rahim in front of building

Dr. Fahim Rahim of the Idaho Kidney Institute stands in front of Matt’s Pavilion, a new kidney dialysis center, on Knudsen Boulevard in Chubbuck on Saturday. The structure is the first of several buildings planned for Chubbuck’s new medical campus.

CHUBBUCK — Construction of the first building for Chubbuck’s new medical campus is nearing completion and project leader Dr. Fahim Rahim of the Idaho Kidney Institute said the kidney dialysis center should have its certificate of occupancy by the end of the year.

The 14,000-square-foot facility will be called Matt’s Pavilion in honor of dialysis technician Matthew Lee, who died in a motorcycle crash in May 2018.

It’s a bright, sunny, state-of-the-art building with tall ceilings, a fireplace and a plethora of windows to let natural light in and show off the views of the surrounding mountains.

“All these things help with healing,” Rahim said.

The 25 stations where patients will receive dialysis are specifically designed for comfort and privacy, something Rahim said is generally lacking in dialysis centers.

“We did a lot of unique things,” Rahim said. “You see the ceiling curves and arches. We wanted to give it a nice, comfortable feeling. And the other thing we did here, we created pods. A traditional dialysis unit is a straight line. It’s just a conveyor belt. Patients don’t feel comfortable, no privacy. So we wanted to give them these nice, cozy spaces. There are four patients in each pod. ... It’s a nice, lounge feeling, versus a very wide open space, which is not comfortable.”

The building also has an area set aside for patients to learn how to do dialysis at home.

“This is really the future,” Rahim said. “We are creating home dialysis. Our goal is for patients to be able to do dialysis at home. Why is that important? Because it’s their quality of life. … We will teach a patient who has kidney failure and needs to be sustained for life on dialysis, we’ll train them on state-of-the-art machines ... and then try to get them home.”

Matt’s Pavilion will also have a Garden of Healing to help patients feel more relaxed.

“It will have some nice sitting area, a comfortable space,” Rahim said. “We designed this nice outdoor sitting area, which is also unique. A lot of these facilities don’t have (space) to go and enjoy the outdoors.”

But the dialysis center is just the beginning for the Chubbuck campus, and Rahim has big plans for the future. In the near future, there will be a medical office building that will contain both kidney care and cardiology.

Rahim said they will likely break ground on that project in the next 30 days.

“It will contain kidney doctors, heart doctors, we’ll have a lab, ultrasound imaging, so patients with kidney disease will get taken care of there and then come here if need be,” Rahim said.

In the more distant future? The sky’s the limit for the 150,000-square-foot property off Knudsen Boulevard.

“This is truly going to be a medical campus. It’s not a hospital,” Rahim said.

As far as specifics over the next five years, Rahim has quite a few plans.

“Well, the aspirations are to keep building on this medical campus and add more facilities,” he said. “I’d love to bring senior living, I would love to bring assisted living here where seniors could live and have easy access to all the doctors and medical facilities right from here. That’s what the future is — a walkable community where they can live and have access to health care.”

He added, “We’d love to have a great pharmacy here, big phenomenal labs so people don’t have to drive all the way to the hospital to get labs drawn. I would love to have another huge medical office building like we’ve built in Idaho Falls where we can consolidate all the doctors in one place.”

Also in the five-year plan, Rahim would like the medical campus to have a small community hospital, and after talking with several big hospital chains, he thinks it can happen. A community hospital would be a benefit, because people can get treated in their community and a small hospital is able to keep costs lower, he said.

“A community this size has a small, 40-, 50-bed hospital because we want to treat simple things within the community,” he said. “We don’t want to be shipping them out to Salt Lake and Boise and even the bigger facility at Portneuf (Medical Center) because the cost is low (at a smaller hospital). The huge hospitals have huge overhead costs. That’s why the care is so expensive. If they’re a 300-bed hospital, they’ve got to keep paying bills for the 300 beds and keep the lights on whether there’s somebody there or not.”

As of right now, Rahim is just looking for the right business to partner with — a company that truly cares about people — to make the hospital a reality.

“We’re partnering with anyone and everyone who is willing to share our vision,” he said. “That’s what our partnership is about. It’s not a financial structure, it’s more about sharing the vision, which is to be able to provide low-cost, good-quality care.”

Rahim is passionate about changing the health care system in the United States, starting right here in Idaho. The Idaho Kidney Institute now has seven locations on this side of the state — the newest of which are in Burley and Twin Falls — making it the largest kidney treatment organization in the state.

“This is the perfect central location,” he said of the Chubbuck medical campus. “An hour and 20 minutes into Burley, we have a presence all the way up to Idaho Falls and we’re looking to expand into Rexburg. So this kind of gives us a nice central location to go to all those places. … Now we have nine providers in our practice, six kidney physicians and three nurse practitioners who have started as of this week. That makes us, along with our presence and footprint, the largest nephrology practice, or kidney care practice, in the state of Idaho, which is a big deal because it helps us provide good-quality care to a very big portion of Idaho. Our coverage area from this this location, all these locations, is all the way from Afton, Wyoming, down to Malad, and we’re going to stretch all the way into Mountain Home. … We’re providing coverage to more than half the state.”

Rahim has several aspects of health care that he thinks need to be completely redone, ranging from transparency of prices to quality of care.

“Currently the health care in the United States is based on volume. What that means is physicians, hospitals, health care systems get paid on frequency,” Rahim said. “The sicker you are, the more times you see me, the more profers they generate, which is a very flawed system. ... What I would love to see in the United States, and I think we are hopefully moving in that direction, is that health care needs to be based on value, outcomes and cost. We need to be paid for value. We need to be paid based on doing a good job. … We need to do more preventative care, and we need to do more aggressive care to keep people healthy and keep them out of the hospitals.”

Rahim also think it’s important for hospitals to be transparent about what they’re charging their patients. Recently, he did his own cost analysis of how much it costs at area hospitals and labs to get blood drawn. It ranged in price from $20 to $800, and people rarely know that cost up front.

“Imagine if you went grocery shopping today and you got a bill two months later, and now you don’t even remember what you bought in the first place,” Rahim said. “You don’t remember the quality and now you’re like, ‘Something is wrong here.’ It’s a no-brainer, it’s just common sense, and yet the system has evolved in a way that we don’t question. You and everybody else and me as a consumer need to question the cost and the quality today.”

He added, “We are stuck in a system, which is fairly flawed, but transparency will be the key. Every physician and hospital needs to declare their costs, so a patient walks in, they understand what they are paying for and then they will compare it.”

To Rahim, it’s immoral how patients are treated within the country’s health care system. The number of people who go bankrupt because of medical treatment is awful and avoidable, he said. At his clinics, he makes a point of keeping treatments affordable, and even then if a patient can’t pay the full cost, he tells them to pay what they can. If they can’t pay at all, that’s fine, too.

“I’m working on something very, very interesting where in all our offices, we’ll have a sign that says ‘This is our real cost of care,’” he said. “If you have insurance, obviously there are different contracts, but we’ve got to first say ‘What is our cash cost?’ because then people know for me to go see Dr. Rahim, it’s a $100 visit. But we also say, if you’ve got no insurance and no capacity to pay, you can pay us whatever you want because that’s equality … I think we have to create a balance where we serve the people who have no means. Let’s say you have no insurance, but you have means to pay. You can pay a cash cost. Pay me 50 bucks if that’s feasible. I’ll do OK with that. Let’s say you don’t have means to pay me anything. Well, let’s create a path. Pay me over the next six months, whatever you can. ‘I cannot even do that.’ Well, pay in kind. Do volunteer work. We need to create a path where people feel invested in the community. It’s not a handout. It’s a way to get everybody to rise up together.”

For Rahim, having so many clinics in so many communities in the area is of vital importance, and that’s why the Idaho Kidney Institute continues to grow.

“Patients need to get quality of care in the communities they live,” he said. “When I moved here 15 years ago, people had to drive to Boise or primarily Salt Lake City to get quality care for kidney disease. … So our goal and ambition is to provide the same quality of care with access. That’s the community part. Everyone needs to have access. Every community needs to have access. We have to have compassion for our patients, because if my patient drives four hours from there to come and see me, it’s easier for me to help create a facility or a process where they can have access within a reasonable distance. We’re living in the greatest country in the world. If you cannot provide access at a good quality of care and at a reasonable cost, then what are we trying to do here?”